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Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time

The idea for this book was born about five years ago; America was in the early grip of the recession and confidence in our political leadership...

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The idea for the Everyday Heroes book was born about five years ago; America was in the early grip of the recession and confidence in our political leadership was deeply compromised. The notion that we had to become architects of our own destiny, both as individuals and as a country, seemed more critical than ever. By spotlighting the everyday heroes among us—individual agents of hope and change who had committed themselves to improving the lives of those in need—I hoped to challenge and empower others to lead and give within their own communities.
The heroes honored in the book are crusaders for social justice and equality. Their work is humanitarian in nature. They are all the founders and/or leaders of successful nonprofits that represent a diverse range of causes and demographics. Offspring of the marriage of entrepreneurship and community service, they nearly all self-identify as social entrepreneurs. They are also what I would categorize as “out of the box” visionaries, whose often unorthodox techniques set them apart from the traditional nonprofit model. As hero Linda Rottenberg, the founder of Endeavor, said to me: “If people don’t think you’re crazy at the beginning, then maybe you’re not thinking big enough.”
Individually, each of these men and women in Everyday Heroes has something exquisitely unique to teach us. Their personal paths to magnanimity are scattered with guideposts and universal lessons for achieving fulfillment. In their stories are actualizations of many of our own deep aspirations to live a just and generous life. By example, they demonstrate that the potential for heroism is innate to us all, if only we choose to activate it.
Collectively, these fifty heroes paint an electrifying portrait of contemporary philanthropy in America. The themes and qualities that emerge repeatedly in their profiles add up to a new and provocative re-imagining of charity, one that eschews tradition and embraces innovation, daring, and a global mindset.
The variety of causes, ideas, and narratives chronicled in Everyday Heroes goes to prove that there are as many different ways to give as there are human beings. With each hero’s story, there is yet another entry point to the undercurrent of generosity that flows around us. The contributions being made by each of these heroes far transcends their literal impact. The real take-away is this: There is no contribution too small or insignificant. Whether you choose to show kindness to a loved one or a neighbor, to volunteer, to donate, or to build your own movement, you are helping to grow a culture of giving, from which—to use a favored phrase among these entrepreneurs—a thousand flowers will bloom.
\nExcerpted from Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time, from Welcome Books. By Katrina Fried. Photographs by Paul Mobley \n

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