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AARP Purpose Prize Honors the 50+ Who Make Our World Better

AARP and its members give back to communities through a variety of programs

Hands placed one on top of the other

Wavebreak Media Ltd./Alamy Stock Photo

En español | Our founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, was a strong believer in helping others and gave us a motto that still guides us today: “To serve, not to be served.” She founded AARP 60 years ago based on that belief and dedicated her life to encouraging people to find a way to serve.

This month we recognize five people with the 2018 AARP Purpose Prize for outstanding work by people age 50-plus who make life better in their communities and throughout the world. The stories of this year’s winners embody our founder’s values.

Consider Karen Cassidy of Hildegard House in Louisville, Ky. Her organization provides housing and caregiving for terminally ill people with no family or place to live.

Susan Cotton is with the Lily Project of Westlake Village, Calif., which screens women in rural Nicaragua for cervical cancer and provides treatment.

The next generation of teachers is being mentored while in high school by Bettye Perkins of Elmsford, N.Y. Her organization — Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Teachers — also provides financial support through college for poor students from culturally diverse backgrounds who want a career in education.

And tomorrow’s political leaders in the immigrant community are trained by Sayu Bhojwani of New York’s New American Leaders.

Last, there’s Monica Kamal Spaeni of McFarland, Wis. Paralyzed in a skiing accident, she is now the head of Access Ability Wisconsin, which works to make outdoor wheelchairs and sporting equipment available at no cost to people with disabilities.

Each winner will receive a $60,000 award from AARP. In addition, 10 AARP Purpose Prize fellows will receive $5,000 to further their work. We salute this year’s winners and strive to follow the same path of giving back.

For example, each year AARP holds a National Day of Service on Sept. 11. This year more than 3,200 AARP staff and volunteers gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to pack more than 1 million meals, which were distributed locally to struggling seniors. We hold similar events on Sept. 11 in communities throughout the country.

Another way AARP members give back is through AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program. Nearly 35,000 trained volunteers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia help 2.5 million low- and moderate-income taxpayers file their federal and state tax returns. It’s the largest free, volunteer-run tax preparation program in the U.S.

If you are looking for volunteer opportunities in your area, check our online resource,

During this season of giving, let’s all thank someone for service to others and consider using our skills and experience to make the world a better place.