MOST CARING PEOPLE IN AMERICA NAMED
Caring Institute Names 2005 Inductees to the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans
Washington, DC – Robert J. Dole, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Caring Institute, announced the winners of the 2005 National Caring Awards.
Seven remarkable adults and five youths will be honored during the National Caring Awards ceremony at 6:00 p.m. on December 5, 2005 in Room G-50 of the Dirksen U.S. Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.
“On behalf of our board of trustees, it is a great honor for us to pay tribute to these extraordinary people who have used their lives for the betterment of others. They are wonderful role models and the very personification of caring,” said Senator Dole.
The Caring Institute’s mission is to promote the values of caring, integrity and public service. It was founded in 1985 by Val J. Halamandaris after a meeting with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa suggested that there was a poverty of the spirit in the developed world which was much worse than the poverty of the body seen in the third world and asked Halamandaris to do something about it. Mother Teresa suggested identifying extraordinarily caring people and holding them up as role models to be emulated by others. The Caring Institute is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
The 2005 Annual Caring Award young adult winners are:
Young Adult Caring Award Recipients
- Kyle Amber, age 16, from Pinecrest, FL, founded “Kids That Care,” to help young children with life threatening or terminal illness. For the past ten years, he and volunteers have stocked hospital waiting rooms with toys, visited sick kids and brought them small presents, helped them to laugh and to fulfill their wishes; to date more than $100,000 has been raised, much of this for a pediatric bone marrow unit in Jackson Memorial Hospital of Miami, Florida.
- May Lan Dong, age 18, from Cambridge, MA, founded “Operation West Africa,” and is the driving force behind it. A trip to Africa when she was 10 years old was enough to convince her to do something to help those who live in grinding poverty. Her efforts centering on Guinea have helped raise $50,000 for the support of an all girls orphanage, a vocational school and a high school.
- Jacob Komar, age 13, from Burlington, CT, created “Computers for Communities, Inc.” in order to help close the digital divide. Four years ago he observed that well-off families had computers but those who were poor did not. He also saw thousands of outdated computers being discarded. Jacob put these two problems together and fashioned a solution. Given his amazing skills, he and other friends so far have been able to rebuild and give away over 1,000 computers to families in need.
- Aishlinn O’Connor, age 16, from Prairie Village, KS, was told when she was nine that she was too young to volunteer at the local children’s hospital. Undeterred, she created her own organization “Kids Helping Kids,” whose mission is to bring happiness and opportunity to underprivileged children. Sensing the connection between kids and seniors, she persuaded a local home for the aged to allow their backyard to be converted into an intergenerational playground and wheelchair garden and raised $75,000 to make this happen.
- Greg Sweeney, age 18, from Washington, DE, founded “Cub Scout Pack 506” to give homeless boys a sense of connection and stability, and to show them that someone cared. He felt they deserved a cozy place to meet, an opportunity to develop stable friendships, to learn from mentors and from each other, to share food, fun and adventures as well as the opportunity to work together to improve the community.
Adult Caring Award Recipients
- Sister Antonia Brenner was raised in Beverly Hills, she married and raised seven children but always had a passion to serve the poor. She volunteered most of her life, but after her divorce she felt the call to do this full time. Divine Providence, she says, guided her to Tijuana’s La Mesa Penitentiary, where for the past 27 years she has lived in a 10 by 10 foot cell giving a mother’s love to people thought to be unlovable. This founder of a Catholic religious order calls herself, “God’s mop,” but she has become known worldwide as “the prison angel.”
- Alice Coles is the descendent of slaves, sharecroppers, who settled in Bayview, Virginia, living for generations on land that belonged to others. The conditions were primitive because the owners would not improve the houses, but at least it was home. In 1995, the State of Virginia announced plans to buy this land, disperse the families and build a maximum security prison. Alice, like Rosa Parks before her, said, “No!” She organized the families, brought in the NAACP and made the news. She stopped the prison land-grab and raised enough money to buy adjacent land, and build new homes for all 57 Bayview families.
- Father Theordore Hesburgh was hired to save the University of Notre Dame in 1952. He served as President through 1987, making the school a world famous center for learning. The university prospered and today has an endowment second only to Harvard. Along the way, he worked for civil rights and justice, becoming the confidant of every President back to Eisenhower. Father Hesburgh has served God, the nation and the university with such distinction that he has become the most honored person in modern history topping the Guinness Book of Records with 150 honorary degrees and the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- Alfredo J. Molina is the son of poor Cuban refugees who came to the U.S. to find opportunity and escape Castro’s Communism. He worked hard, got an education and found work in the jewelry business because of prior experience working as an apprentice to his grandfather. Opening a small shop in Phoenix, Arizona, Molina was mired in debt until paradoxically he started giving away his time and his money in service to the community. The more he gave the more he prospered. Today, he is both the nation’s most successful jewelers and among its greatest philanthropists, personally supporting over 167 charities.
- Mother Wright now age 84, believes she is on a God-given mission to feed the hungry. Some 21 years ago she heard a voice in the night which motivated her to give all of her $236 Social Security check to provide Thanksgiving dinner for 300 homeless people in Oakland, California. She has been doing this ever since. Seeing her dedication, others came to her aid. A formal organization was born which feeds about 450 people a day and more recently sends food to other needy people around the world.
- Genny Nelson worked for a federal antipoverty program in Portland’s skid row in the 1970’s. Unlike others, Genny listened to the homeless who told her what they would like to see in place of the existing desperate soup kitchens. Genny promptly left her job, took on homeless people as partners and built “Sister’s of the Road” in 1979. “Sister’s” provides restaurant quality meals (no dented cans or surplus foods) prepared by homeless people with culinary skills who are paid for their work. Those who cannot pay for meals can work for credits that can be applied toward them. Today, “Sister’s” provides the homeless with a home, a refuge, a place to receive mail, to train for or find a job and to connect with their friends.
- Gloria WilderBraithwaite worked her way through Howard University and Georgetown Medical School fired by the desire to help others. When she graduated, she heard of a new program conceived by entertainer Paul Simon to create a doctor’s office on wheels in order to bring medical care to the inner city. While others warned her that this would be too dangerous, Gloria was the first doctor who volunteered. For the past 14 years, she has been riding in a blue colored van bringing medical care where it is needed the most to the people living in the roughest neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.
The Institute operates a museum, the Hall of Fame for Caring Americans, located in what was the first Washington, DC home of the human rights advocate, Frederick Douglass. Caring Award winners are inducted into this Hall of Fame, located three blocks east of the U.S. Capitol, at 320 A Street, NE, Washington, DC.
For more information, please contact Val Halamandaris, Richard Brennan or Julie Fry at (202) 547-4273.