The Encore Opportunity Awards
by Debra Caruso, DJC Communications
Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation announced the winners of the 2009 Encore Opportunity Awards, eight nonprofit and public sector organizations tapping encore talent to serve the common good. The organizations were noted for making it easier for experienced workers to transition into encore careers - paid jobs that offer meaning and the chance to effect social concerns.
"Many nonprofit and public sector organizations are hiring and retaining people over 50 to meet community needs - and doing so in an exemplary fashion," said Phyllis N. Segal, vice president of Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.
From all over the U.S. , the award winners are engaging people over 50 in creative ways to protect public safety, build low-income housing, teach job skills, preserve the environment, even save dying Native American languages.
"This year's Encore winners are innovative, adaptable and smart. They recognize the need to take advantage of the talent of older American possess," said Dennis White, CEO and president of MetLife Foundation. "Their practices are models for others to follow."
The 2009 winners:
· Alliance of Early Childhood Professionals (Minneapolis)- This nonprofit created a youth development program that pays "elders"- Native Americans over 50 who know the Dakota or Ojibwe languages - to work with children from two to five years old. The language immersion experience is aimed at passing along native languages and culture.
(Pictured right: Alexandria Mason, left, and Maya Stand-Acero, learn the Ojibwe language from Lillian Rice, 77, while removing husks from wild rice at Four Directions Family Center in Minneapolis.)
· Civitan Foundation Inc. (Phoenix)- This organization designed its Caring Connections program to engage encore workers as direct caregivers for its programs serving those of all ages with disabilities. In its first eight months, the project trained 50 older Americans and placed 20 in caregiver roles with clients.
· Executive Service Corps of Chicago (Chicago)- To fill the leadership transition challenges experienced by many nonprofits, the Executive Service Corps recruits, trains and places retired nonprofit executives in interim director positions in Chicago-area nonprofits.
· Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department (Lawrenceville, Ga.)- This public safety agency recruits and employs encore workers to fill jobs at all levels. One quarter of the department's civilian and sworn work force is over 50 and previously held jobs government, retail and business.
· Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter Florida Inc. (Eustis, Fla.)- To provide homes to people living in substandard and overcrowded conditions, this Habitat for Humanity affiliate enlists a multigenerational work force. Half its staff is over 50.
· National Center for Appropriate Technology (Butte, Mont.)- This organization helps people nationally - with offices in Montana, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Louisiana and Pennsylvania - use environmentally sound, energy-efficient methods in farming. More than 40% of its employees are 50-plus, thanks to a recruitment strategy that seeks their skills and experience and a retention strategy offering flexible schedules.
· Orleans Technical Institute a division of JEVS Human Services (Philadelphia)- This technical training school employs retirees from the building trades as instructors to provide training and individualized support to an "at-risk" student population. More than half of the school's employees are 50-plus, including full- and part-time instructors, support staff, recruiters and counselors.
· Umbrella of the Capital District (Schenectady, N.Y.)- To help older adults and persons with disabilities live independently in their own homes, this nonprofit intentionally recruits 50-plus workers with the appropriate technical skills. More than 130 "handypeople" are paid an hourly stipend for light carpentry, lawn and garden maintenance, house cleaning and transportation to appointments.
In 2007, MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures first honored nonprofit and public sector employers with what was then called the BreakThrough Awards. The inaugural winners similarly exhibited successful strategies for finding, hiring and maximizing workers over 50.