You’d figure that a competition inviting people age 50 and older to share their entrepreneurial and inspirational experiences would yield some fascinating stories. Well, that’s exactly what happened in the Later-Life Contest hosted by the Center for Productive Longevity, which just announced the winners for the contest’s two categories.
Taking top honors in the Most Successful Entrepreneurship Story category is New York City’s Lynn Brooks, whose story “is about over coming the odds and never giving up.” In 1992, Lynn founded Big Apple Greeter, a non-profit that matches New York City visitors with volunteer “greeters” based upon language and neighborhoods of interest. The greeters show the visitors around the city free of charge.
“Before Big Apple Greeter, I left an eight-year job I wasn’t enjoying,” recounts Lynn in her contest entry. “People thought I was foolish since I was 59, and they worried I’d never be hired again. I figured if I didn’t have the courage to leave, I’d never have another chance to do work I enjoyed.”
Her efforts paid off. Today, Big Apple Greeter has more than 300 Greeters – most are over 55, more than 50% work, many are multi-lingual, some are blind or use wheelchairs. In 2005, the Global Greeter Network was founded, which has grown to 36 programs on six continents. Each separate program is based on the Big Apple Greeter model of welcoming visitors as a way to promote understanding among cultures.
The second contest category, The Most Inspirational Life Story, also has a terrific winner: Barbara Traynor of Slingerlands, New York. After working as an administrative assistant for 45 years, this divorced mother of three children found herself pondering her future as her 65th birthday approached. She decided to accept an opportunity to become a long-term volunteer — in Alaska.
What followed was an adventure filled with travel and new ways of life. Barbara is now back home, where’s she’s begun a new life as a book author and public speaker.
“A friend said that taking a chance on an unknown lifestyle took verve,” wrote Barbara in her contest essay. “I looked it up. Verve means possessing a special ability to pull something off with panache and wild, chaotic, unpredictable passion in the reckless pursuit of pleasure, no matter how outrageous. Everyone should experience verve! Life percolates when you add the element of chance.”
Each contest winner will receive $1,000 and a specially designed trophy. You can read their full essays on the website for the Center for Productive Longevity, which plans to post 15 of the most inspirational and touching contest entries in the coming weeks.
Congratulations to the two winners!