Nov 11, 2019
At National Gala Tonight AARP Will Honor Five Winners of the 2019-2020 AARP Purpose Prize; Each Winner Will Receive $60K Award
AARP Purpose Prize Honors Community-Focused Work by People Age 50-Plus

WASHINGTON—At a national gala held tonight in Washington D.C., AARP will honor the five winners of the 2019-2020 AARP Purpose Prize award each of whom has been selected for the outstanding community-service-focused work of organizations they lead.  All five winners, all of whom are over the age of 50, will be awarded $60,000 by AARP to help further the mission of their organization.

This year’s AARP Purpose Prize Winners are:


Georgette Bennett, 72 New York, N.Y. Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA)

  • A child of Holocaust survivors and a refugee herself, Bennett founded and leads MFA, the largest U.S. multifaith response to the Syrian crisis, comprising more than 100 faith-based and secular organizations committed to aiding Syrian war victims.


Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, 56Mahopac, N.Y. Latino U College Access (LUCA)  

  • LUCA helps first-generation-to-college Latino students enroll in and graduate from college. Inspired after working in local nonprofit organizations and helping her own children apply to college, Buontempo saw a need for bilingual support to resource-challenged, Spanish-speaking families and students make their dreams of a college education a reality.


Sister Edna Lonergan, 76 Milwaukee, Wis. St. Ann Center

  • Lonergan’s experience operating an adult day care facility in the 1980s where she was struck by the isolation many older people experience, inspired her to create an innovative approach to care that breaks down barriers of ageism and bonds generations. The result is the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care, a day services center for people of all ages.


Paul Leon, 64 Orange, Calif.Illumination Foundation

  • While working as a critical care nurse, Leon witnessed firsthand the large number of children living on the streets with their families. A desire to help break the cycle of homelessness was the catalyst for him to start Illumination Foundation.


Wintley Phipps, 64 — Vero Beach, Fla. — U.S. Dream Academy


  • As a minister and gospel performer, Phipps spent much of his career doing prison ministry. In the wake of that work, he founded U.S. Dream Academy to serve the children of incarcerated parents, who themselves are often at risk of incarceration, to believe in themselves and to succeed.


Sharable videos on each of the AARP Purpose Prize Winners and the work they do can be found here:


Dr. Georgette Bennett:

Paul Leon:

Wintley A. Phipps:

Sister Edna Lonergan:

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo:


Additionally, at tonight’s gala AARP will honor nine AARP Purpose Prize fellows for the mission-focused work of the organizations they each lead. Each fellow will receive a $5,000 award.

This year’s AARP Purpose Prize Fellows are:

Im Ja Choi, 71
Philadelphia, Pa.
Penn Asian Senior Services 

Adele Della Torre, 65
Minneapolis, Minn.
Ready Set Smile

AnnMaria De Mars, 60
Santa Monica, Calif.
7 Generation Games  

Linda B Eagan, 65
Fulton, N.Y.
Fulton Block Builders

Beth Ehrhardt, 63
West Valley City, Utah
Senior Charity Care Foundation

Gregg Kander, 58
Braddock, Pa.

Molly MacDonald, 68
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
The Pink Fund  

Vicki Sokolik, 58
Tampa, Fla.
Starting Right Now 

Kirk Whisler, 67
San Diego, Calif.
Latino Literacy Now

“AARP Purpose Prize winners and fellows have spent decades accumulating a wealth of knowledge that only life experience can bring. Armed with this wisdom, they tackle some of the greatest societal challenges of our time and are making a difference in their communities and further afield,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “We are proud to highlight their work with the AARP Purpose Prize award and to celebrate a new story of aging – one full of meaningful impact and limitless possibilities.”

For more on the AARP Purpose Prize, please visit:

About AARP
AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and more than 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.


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