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Jack Levine Blog (June 24, 2009)

Day three of the National Volunteerism and Community Services Conference kicked off with a gathering of leaders from the philanthropic, community service, non-profit and government sectors for a comprehensive introduction to President Barack Obama’s Social Innovation Fund strategy.

In a nutshell, the Social Innovation Fund was authorized in the recent Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Fund will focus on priority policy areas, including education, health care, and economic opportunity. It will partner with foundations, philanthropists, and corporations which will commit matching resources, funding, and technical assistance.

The White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, in coordination with the Corporation for National and Community Service www.cns.gov will coordinate efforts to enlist all Americans – individuals, non-profits, social entrepreneurs, corporations and foundations – as partners in solving our great challenges. Located within the Domestic Policy Council, it will:

  • Catalyze partnerships between the government and nonprofits, businesses and philanthropists in order to make progress on the President’s policy agenda
  • Identify and support the rigorous evaluation and scaling of innovative, promising ideas that are transforming communities
  • Support greater civic participation through new media tools
  • Promote national service.

For additional information: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-to-Request-50-Million-to-Identify-and-Expand-Effective-Innovative-Non-Profits/

One of the presenters at this Social Innovation Fund breakfast event was Dorothy Stoneman, Founder and CEO of Youth Build https://www.youthbuild.org/site. Dorothy, now 67, is widely recognized as a social entrepreneur who, since the launch of her design for youth/young adult service the late 1970’s in East Harlem, has developed one of the most successful innovations in education, employment and civic engagement in our history.

Dorothy Stoneman & Jack Levine

Since the “full launch” of Youth Build in 1994, more than 84,000 16-24 year-olds in some 225 Youth Build sites have learned and earned the opportunity to build and renovate homes for low income and homeless neighbors, thereby become fully engaged citizens contributing to the quality of life in their communities.

The youth/young adults who participate in Youth Build represent a demographic that most would “write off” – Ninety-one percent have left high school without a diploma, 40-percent have had some court involvement in the delinquency systems, and all come from backgrounds which are economically disadvantaged.

Despite these odds, Youth Build and their not-for-profit community affiliated organization partners have a documented track record in lifting up the educational achievements and employment skills of these young adults with remarkable success.

But, according to Dorothy Stoneman, in an exclusive interview with GRAND, the best is yet to come. She envisions Youth Build to more than triple their program sites to some 800, and to continue on a path of both U.S. and international program expansions and locations.

When asked about her passion for lifting up the newest generation of young people to high levels of personal and community success, she said “My experience is that given a chance to achieve, all young people understand that hard work and commitment are part of the deal. We are not only teaching them by doing, we are helping these youth pave a positive path to lifelong community connections.”

Dorothy is God-Mother to 13 children of friends and “Grand God-Mother” to seven! She and her husband welcome the “Extended God-Family” for Summer retreats in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts every summer.

Dorothy Stoneman’s career of inspiring service has touched to lives of hundreds of thousands of people…both through the skills building of youth as well as the families whose homes were constructed and renovated by those youth. She personifies the level of leadership which we Baby Boomers have every opportunity to aspire to, and her emotional energy gives each of us a beacon to be followed.

The 2009 National Spirit of Service Awards were presented to seven individuals of varying ages whose activities have resulted in positive impact for their neighbors. Here’s a link to the biographies of those leaders recognized for their creative commitment to others….


My best……

Jack Levine
GRAND Media Correspondent

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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