AARP and Purpose Prize Awards
“Every discussion addressing a social challenge needs to include a conversation on how to involve seniors.”
December 14, 2009
(Champaign, Illinois) – Two leading national organizations and a prominent author have all recently lauded Brenda Krause Eheart, Ph.D., the founder of Generations of Hope (in 1993) and of Generations of Hope Development Corporation (in 2006), for her pioneering work in creating “intentional intergenerational communities” to help address social problems.
Eheart was one of ten recipients of AARP’s Inspire Awards, which salute “outstanding individuals who are using their energy, creativity, and passion to make the world a better place.” She was recognized for her work in founding Hope Meadows, an intergenerational community in Rantoul, Illinois, where families adopt neglected and abused children from the foster care system. These families live amidst neighboring “grandparents” who create a supportive, nurturing environment that helps the children thrive. “Hope seniors” receive below-market rents in exchange for volunteering six hours a week with the children, and families receive financial support so one parent can stay at home.
Other AARP Inspire Award recipients this year included actor Clint Eastwood, Parkinson’s disease advocate Lonnie Ali, figure skater and cancer survivor Scott Hamilton, radio personality Tom Joyner, Latino health activist Aida Giachello, Ph.D., actress and cancer survivor advocate Raquel Welch, equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, entertainment reporter and advocate for caregivers Leeza Gibbons, and Captain Richard Phillips, who turned himself over to Somali pirates in order to save his crew.
Eheart was also named a Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures, an honor “for social entrepreneurs over 60 who are using their experience and passion to take on society’s biggest challenges.” Civic Ventures was started by Marc Freedman who, like Eheart, is also a Fellow with the global organization Ashoka, Innovators for the Public.
Eheart is now taking the Hope Meadows model and replicating it in communities throughout the country through Generations of Hope Development Corporation (GHDC), which was established in 2006 with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. GHDC is helping to develop communities to support vulnerable and at-risk children, youth and young adults, including children aging out of foster care, young parents re-entering society after incarceration or drug treatment, and homeless or near-homeless families. The key to these Generations of Hope Communities is the active involvement of seniors, who provide an “extended family” for both the young people in need and the adults who support and care for them.
“Every discussion addressing a social challenge needs to include a conversation on how to involve seniors,” says Eheart. “Seniors are active, vibrant and dedicated volunteers in every aspect of our society, and they are the heart of the ‘community as intervention’ approach to addressing social problems.”
Eheart was also mentioned in “It’s Your Time,” an inspirational book by best-selling author Joel Osteen, the pastor of the nation’s largest church. Osteen relates how Eheart never gave up her dream for Hope Meadows, even though she “had no money and no influence. She was told it was too expensive, that the problem was too big.”