The Manhattan Institute recently announced the winners of its 2006 Awards for Social Entrepreneurship. The Awards, presented annually to five organizations, honor “nonprofit leaders who have found innovative, private solutions for America’s most pressing social problems” with gifts of up to $10,000. Focusing on the nonprofit sector’s creative energy, the Award seeks to recognize private social-service groups, reformative organizations, education groups, community groups and conservancies. This year’s recipients are: Richard Liebich, Project Lead the Way; Aaron Hurst, Taproot Foundation; Mary Lou Kownacki, Inner-City Neighborhood Art House; Paige T. Ellison, Project K.I.D.; and Amy Hamlin, Volunteers in Medicine Institute.
Project Lead the Way, established in 1997 by founding benefactor and Roundtable member Richard Liebich, provides schools with effective programs for math and science reform. Gateway to Technology is a five-unit middle school program designed to explore math, science and technology. Pathway to Engineering is an eight-course high school program which helps students develop problem-solving skills through exposure to “real-world” engineering problems. The project’s vocational education program, Career and Tech, trains students seeking full time employment following high school.
Taproot, founded in 2001 by Aaron Hurst, “identifies projects that address the challenges of most nonprofits, and develops general processes for meeting those needs.” Taproot volunteer managers and their teams develop branding systems, brochures, annual reports, websites, donor databases or performance management systems. Donors issue service grants at $5,000 each, directed to a particular field or to their own grantees. Taproot estimates each $5,000 contribution delivers $30,000 to $50,000 of pro bono services. Nationally, the three offices have awarded over 400 service grants to 980 non profits.
In 1994 Sister Mary Lou Kownacki began planning the reuse of a vacant Goodyear tire repair garage to create a neighborhood center in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania that would bring the arts to the poor. Today, the Inner-City Neighborhood Art House offers thirty classes in writing, music, art, dance and pottery. The Art House has enrolled 3,000 children over the past ten years, from 27 schools and social service organizations. Aside from small grants from the local arts council, the Art House’s $500,000 annual budget comes almost entirely from individual donations.
Six days after Hurricane Katrina left many children without a safe refuge, Paige Ellison created the first Project K.I.D. [Kids in Devastation] “PlayCare” site. Locating volunteers, food, water and toys, Ellison provided parents—consumed with finding shelter, applying for aid, and seeking employment—with a safe place to leave their children. The original site reached 5,600 children, utilized over 220 volunteers, and precipitated the opening of 12 PlayCare sites in Mississippi. Based in Fairhope, Alabama, the organization continues to “bring together individuals, relief organizations, businesses, and government agencies to collect supplies, organize volunteers, coordinate transportation into and out of devastated areas and ensure that parents and children are provided safe, reliable, and much needed respite child care.”
The concept for The Volunteers in Medicine Institute began in 1993, when Jack McConnell, a retired physician and research scientist at McNeil Pharmaceuticals, saw a drastic need for better health care access in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He assembled doctors and nurses to serve in what would become the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, providing medical assistance to the uninsured. Under the leadership of director Amy Hamlin, the Institute has established an alliance of 50 clinics in 24 states. The Institute provides consulting services and plans for local groups that wish to start their own VIM-style clinic, using both retired doctors (who are still licensed) and practicing medical professionals. Hamlin hopes to have 250 clinics by 2010.