Kate Williams of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired Wins The Purpose Prize® 2014 for Work that’s Changing the World
On October 28, in Tempe, Arizona, Encore.org honored the achievements of six outstanding Americans, including LightHouse Employment Immersion Program Leader Kate Williams, with prizes from $25,000 to $100,000, awarded to recognize and support their ongoing efforts. The awards ceremony was held at the Tempe Center for the Arts in Tempe, Arizona.
Before joining the LightHouse, Williams worked for decades in human resources as a recruiter. When she began to lose her vision, she worried about losing her career and her independence; she now uses the adaptive technology that kept her in the workforce to help the blind find jobs, at a pace that exceeds many conventional employment job-placement programs. For her dedication and creative leadership by example, Williams was awarded a $25,000 Purpose Prize. Kate is perhaps the first winner of the Purpose Prize with a disability.
Kate said, “I am honored and moved at The Purpose Prize award, granted in recognition of my work helping blind jobseekers find employment,” Williams said. “Although the program has garnered over 1.5 million annually in salaries, and saved taxpayers literally millions of dollars in benefits, the real joy is receiving a phone call from a graduate announcing they have accepted a job offer. Seeing peoples’ lives change as a result of securing employment, and watching them grow in self-sufficiency and independence is the real reward.”
LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin is very proud of Williams and the Employment Immersion Program. The success rate of the program ranks highest in California and climbs steadily higher as the program grows. One of the goals of the program is to encourage Bay Area employers to recognize the value of hiring blind and disabled employees. Studies have shown that blind workers increase diversity, increase productivity and improve stability through reduced job turn over.
Now in its ninth year, The Purpose Prize is the nation’s only large-scale investment in people over the age of 60 who are combining their life skills and experience for the social good. Created in 2005 by Encore.org (then called Civic Ventures), the prize aims to recognize social innovators with the drive to be a part of the solution to some of society’s most pressing challenges – and the wisdom to know how to do it. Their work showcases the enormous, and too-often overlooked, value of long experience, and soundly disproves the notion that innovation is solely the province of the young.
Emmy-award winning journalist Jane Pauley and 2013 Purpose Prize winner Ysabel Duron emceed the event, which included hundreds of Encore leaders and the Purpose Prize winners. Twenty-four jurors – leaders in business, politics, media and the nonprofit sector – chose the six winners of The Purpose Prize. An additional 30 Purpose Prize fellows were selected from a pool of nearly 800 nominees. Jurors include Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount; David Bornstein, author and New York Times columnist; Eric Liu, author and founder of Citizen University; and Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
“Kate Williams and the 2014 winners of The Purpose Prize have applied their significant talents to address poverty, community health, disaster relief and disabilities,” said Eunice Lin Nichols, director of the Purpose Prize. “Despite their superficial differences, these extraordinary individuals share the belief that the work they are doing now ranks among their most significant accomplishments, impacting thousands of people, across the U.S. and the world.”
“Encore.org is proud to recognize their achievements. They stand as powerful examples for the millions of Americans who believe that leveraging their life experience in order to make a difference – big or small, across communities, continents and generations – is a vital responsibility,” Nichols said.
If you or someone you know is interested in finding employment or returning to the workplace, contact Kate Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-694-7324.