'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

Ideas For Good

A new survey by Participant Media and Encore.org finds that adults over 50 overwhelmingly describe a strong desire to help make the world better for those younger than themselves1. Starting in April 2012, TakePart.com launched the Marigold Ideas For Good Contest, looking for some of the most inspiring and innovative people over 50 in the United States.

We weren't disappointed.

After an overwhelming response: hundreds of submissions and thousands of votes, we now have 30 winners — and six grand prize winners — doing remarkable things across the country. These winners are mothers and fathers, teachers and farmers, scientists and volunteers. Some of them, like Karen Blessen (our June grand prize winner, pictured above), were inspired by tragedy to change their communities. Others, like May winner Kathleen Fletcher, traveled thousands of miles to make a difference in the lives of those she had never met. They are all inspiring, and we're proud to feature their projects on TakePart.com and support their future endeavors.


Five winners each month (from April to October) received a $5,000 grant toward their project, and one grand prize winner each month received an educational or service-learning adventure via Road Scholar.

1  Click here to download the full survey results.

BEMH: Infographic Media Card 1
BEMH: Infographic Media Card 2

Research Highlights

April's Grand Prize Winner


BEMH: Deborah Greymoon Media Card

Deborah Greymoon: Safer Birthing Practices

In 2007, Deborah Greymoon volunteered as a midwife at a high-risk maternity hospital in India, where post-partum hemorrhage among women, the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide, is still a major problem. A midwife for 30 years, she taught local doctors techniques that can save lives during childbirth. Now a certified nurse, she plans to further educate doctors and nurses in India on these simple and accessible techniques to prevent unnecessary loss of life.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for April

BEMH: Kathleen Braico Media Card

Kathleen Braico: Summer Service For Teens

Retired pediatrician Kathleen Braico noticed a gap in summer activities for teenagers in her Queensbury, NY, community. Younger children have summer camp, and older teenagers can work, but kids in the 13-15 age range are left with little to no supervision. Braico’s vision is for a summer service program for teenagers in this age range, teaching them life skills and the value of community service. She wants program to be managed and directed by the students involved — they will choose their own community service projects.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for April

BEMH: Charlene Johnson Media Card

Charlene Johnson: Houses For Homeless Veterans

Since the start of the housing crisis, thousands of homes in Detroit’s Highland Park community have been foreclosed on or abandoned. Meanwhile, thousands more homeless families and veterans are in temporary shelters and job seeking programs. Charlene Turner Johnson wants to launch Come Home to Highland Park, a community project to help revitalize these houses to provide homes for local homeless.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for April

BEMH: Gary Oppenheimer Media Card

Gary Oppenheimer: Fresh Food to Food Pantries

CNN Hero and Huffington Post Game Changer Gary Oppenheimer started AmpleHarvest.org, an online network to connect home and community gardeners with food pantries that lack a steady supply of fresh produce. With 50 million Americans in food insecure homes, and 40 million Americans growing fruit, vegetables and herbs in home gardens, Oppenheimer saw a natural synergy and has thus far connected over 5,000 food pantries across all 50 states with supplies of fresh produce. In 2011, through Ample Harvest, over 20 million pounds of produce was donated by gardeners to pantries nationwide.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for April

BEMH: Stan Weston Media Card

Stan Weston: Tree House For Everyone

Stan Weston would like to create a playground accessible to everyone including those in wheelchairs and walkers. The trees will not be used for support, but will come up through the deck and house. With playground equipment on the deck and on the ground, Stan’s “Tree House for Everyone” will be available for birthday parties, family outings, picnics and classroom lessons.

April Winners

May's Grand Prize Winner

BEMH: Ellen Kamp Media Card

Ellen Kamp: Helping Widowed Women Cope

In 2009, Ellen Kamp and Dawn Nargi started The W Connection, a nonprofit dedicated to helping widowed women cope with their bereavement and rebuild their lives. In addition to a strong network of emotional support, The W Connection offers resources to help women regain control of their lives so they can once again be healthy and productive. The W Connection now has an Outreach and Peer Mentor program, a Widow’s Survival Kit, and plans to produce a video based on interviews with actual widows as an education resource about the challenges facing widows.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for May

BEMH: Diane Claughton Media Card

Diane Claughton: Fighting Obesity in the South

Diane Claughton knows that children love to eat, but few of them love to cook. She wants to change that with Grow: Cook: Dine, a ten-week after-school cooking program for 4th and 5th graders that follows food from garden to plate. Starting in Mississippi, the nation’s most obese state, Grow: Cook: Dine will teach basic culinary skills to children, encourage the consumption of less processed food, and emphasize the importance of community eating.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for May

BEMH: Jean Cosby Media Card

Jean Cosby: Weekend Food for Students

After retiring, Florida high school teacher Jean Cosby began volunteering at a local food pantry, and recognized the incredible need for assistance for local families, especially children. Many kids from poorer households get school breakfasts and lunches, but have no such help on the weekend. Cosby organized an all-volunteer group to acquire donations from local businesses and grocery stores to meet this need. The Marigold grant, she says, would provide weekend food for 60 children for a full school year.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for May

BEMH: Jan Coulter Media Card

Jan Coulter: Education for Burmese Refugees

Over two million exiled Burmese refugees cannot return to their homeland, and many in the younger generation are living elsewhere in Asia with no access to education. Jan Coulter met just a few of these young people in Mae Sot, Thailand, in 2010. She’d never met students with so much passion for learning, and knew she had to help improve their school. With the Marigold grant, she could help the Minmahaw Post Ten School hire permanent teachers and prepare these eager young Burmese refugees for university.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for May

BEMH: Kathleen Fletcher Media Card

Kathleen Fletcher: Medical Clinic in East Africa

Kathleen Fletcher lives in Kenya, East Africa, with 65 orphan girls. Kathleen’s Maasai neighbors have to travel 10 miles to reach the nearest medical clinic. Kathleen would like to build a small clinic on the grounds to serve the medical needs of the community, which are so paramount for the rural tribes. The clinic will be a gift to the neighbors from miles around the African countryside and offer dental services and prenatal care along with examining rooms and a pharmacy.

May Winners

June's Grand Prize Winner

BEMH: Karen Blessen Media Card

Karen Blessen: Non-Violence Through Art

Karen Blessen started MasterPEACE after a 30-year career as a graphic artist and journalist. In 2000, a senseless murder occurred in front of Karen’s home. Seeing the colossal waste and loss caused by violent behavior, she felt a passion to use the art to teach children about nonviolence. MasterPEACE is an art-based, hands-on curriculum that teaches essential social values like kindness and compassion, and important life skills such as problem solving, conflict resolution and analytical thinking. From 2007 to 2012, MasterPEACE served thousands of children – including refugees, pregnant and parenting teens, and at-risk youth.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for June

BEMH: John Fugazzie Media Card

John Fugazzie: Support For The Unemployed

Things went south for John Fugazzie after 9/11. His consulting business failed and his house went into foreclosure. Unable to find decent work, he sought out help at a job-seeking group at the local library. There, he met several other people in a similar situation and that gave him the idea for Neighbors-Helping-Neighbors USA, volunteer support and network group targeted to unemployed or underemployed individuals. After only 16 months of existence, they have helped 131 people find work – without a budget.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for June

BEMH: Vicki Hill Media Card

Vicki Hill: Training for Autistic Adults

People with autism are often talented in technology yet unemployed due to their social communication skills. In 2010 Vicki Hill, mother of an autistic adult, met two dads with autistic sons who were starting to train adults with autism to create video games and apps. Together they opened nonPareil Institute on a college campus in Texas in 2010 with eight students. Today, nonPareil employs 11 autistic adults and trains nearly 80 more to create and sell video games and apps. The Marigold grant would go toward scholarships for student training at nonPareil.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for June

BEMH: Brenda Moore Media Card

Brenda Moore: Entrepreneurship Through Coffee

As owner of the PB Roasting Company in Detroit, Brenda Moore knows the coffee business well. But, on a 2007 trip to Ethiopia, she was amazed by the network of women operating independent coffee micro-businesses, and realized this could be an empowering outlet for women in the U.S. The Java Hope Project provides women with business training and support within the coffee industry, and the opportunity to own their own independent coffee carts.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for June

BEMH: Deepa Willingham Media Card

Deepa Willingham: School For Girls In India

Growing up in Calcutta, Deepa Willingham’s mother always reminded her, "Finish your food, there are starving children just outside." They instilled in her a respect and value for all people regardless of caste, religion or gender. It is with this value in mind that Willingham started PACE Universal, a community program in Piyali, India, that currently reaches over 200 girls and 50 women. Students are taught not just literacy, but life skills and vocational training to attempt to deconstruct the debilitating cycle of poverty.

June Winners

Primary tabs

July's Grand Prize Winner


BEMH: David Stillman Media Card

David Stillman: Clean Cook Stoves in Haiti

David Stillman, a retired United Nations staff member, helped form the Clean Cook Stove and Fuel Initiative. After the earthquake in Haiti, the Public-Private Alliance Foundation is piloting two environmentally-friendly varieties of small cook stoves and fuel for distribution. In Haiti, wood and charcoal is used for cooking and imposes a critical situation for health, deforestation, and environmental damage. The Marigold grant will help purchase ethanol from local farmers and distillers, pay for construction of a briquette press, and cover costs for project monitoring and evaluation

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for July

BEMH: Susan Burgess-Lent Media Card

Susan Burgess-Lent: Women's Center in Kenya

After working in Darfur and Sudan, Susan Burgess-Lent wants to continue her work in providing a safe environment to women in Nairobi, Kenya. In developing a women’s center in Nairobi, she has taught vocational and leadership skills to marginalized and impoverished women as well as reproductive health education. The Nairobi Center is the first initiative of the newly formed non-profit Women’s Centers International and the Marigold grant will allow for further funds dedicated to purchasing materials for adult education.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for July

BEMH: Susan Gadbois Media Card

Susan Gadbois: Community Gathering Center

Susan Gadbois’s organization Nuesta Casa literally means “Our House.” The center provides a convenient and central place where neighbors can meet in a safe, comfortable and supervised environment. In addition to providing a meeting place where people can bond over common interest, Nuestra Casa will also serve to encourage future revitalization projects helping residents foster a healthy and safe community.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for July

BEMH: Jacki Gethner Media Card

Jacki Gethner: HIV/AIDS Peer Education Group

With extensive experience in successful public health projects, Jacki Gethner seeks to start a sexual health, HIV/AIDS prevention and Hepatitis C Peer Education group for women over 50 on the Oregon coast. This workshop will provide half-day trainings for professionals and full-day trainings for community based peer educators. The training will educate women about why they should know more about these diseases, be tested for HIV and Hep C and be clear about the need to practice safe sex.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for July

BEMH: Susan Hazard Media Card

Susan Hazard: Pet Care Assistance

Susan Hazard lives in a small town in Minnesota surrounded by three Native American Reservations where there is a tremendous amount of poverty and a lack of education about how to care for domestic animals. She and her neighbors are forming a funding group to help with spay/neuter costs for pets of people on assistance, education outreach on how to care for pets responsibly, and local pet adoption. A foundation has been established to accept donations, and all funds go directly to cover spay/neuter costs. Susan and her group have already garnered local business support as they try to make a difference in a region in need.

July Winners

August's Grand Prize Winner

BEMH: Bruce Pollock Media Card

Bruce Pollock: Helping Rochester Schools

Bruce Pollock founded Friends of Educational Excellence (FREE) in 2010 to help teachers and students in the city of Rochester, New York. About half of all Rochester city children live in poverty, and the majority of its students could not pass the 2011 New York State English Language Arts exam. FREE provides volunteers to work with public school teachers to tutor students and support overburdened teachers. The Marigold grant would help support a larger network of volunteers at 10 Rochester schools.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for August

BEMH: Mira Talbott Pope Media Card

Mira Talbott Pope: Food and Art Resources

After meeting two young charitable Guatemalan painters, Mira Talbott Pope was so inspired by the idea of giving back through art that she was able to set up her own service - providing families with a basket of food once a month, painting classes, a meal every Saturday morning, and aid with school expenses when needed. Through her organization, Mira wants to improve nutrition, school attendance, right/left brain balance for better learning, and self-esteem by stressing individual thinking, responsibility, cooperation, and originality.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for August

BEMH: Wendy Swanson Media Card

Wendy Swanson: Vocational Training

While Wendy Swanson was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, she witnessed the shocking reality of women and children being exploited through sex trafficking - and she knew that she had to do something about it. Her organization will specifically aim to provide scholarships for vocational training for these women and girls. It is Wendy’s belief that creating opportunities for these young women to pursue legitimate jobs and careers is the key to breaking the cycle of abuse, degradation, and exploitation.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for August

BEMH: Sheila Warnock Media Card

Sheila Warnock: Caregiving Roadmap

By blending her creative expertise, pioneering spirit, tenacity, and life experiences, Sheila Warnock has actualized her true calling as a caregiver and a teacher through her organization Share The Care. Share The Care is a grassroots model that empowers ordinary people (friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers cutting across racial, geographic, gender, and socioeconomic lines) with a step-by-step roadmap on how they can maintain their own unique caregiving family to help someone who’s on the verge of being overwhelmed. It is the organization’s mission to turn “what can I do to help?” into powerful action that influences all involved.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for August

BEMH: Judith Warren Media Card

Judith Warren: Disaster Preparedness

Northwestern California has experienced many significant disasters in the past, ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis to wildfires and floods. Judith Warren and her organization, The Regional Training Institute, seek to address the significant need for disaster preparedness education for the residents of five counties within this area - Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou, and Trinity. It is their view that disaster preparedness education before a potential disaster occurs is key to mitigating hazards, while also allowing for more efficient recovery afterwards. Through classes taught by subject-matter experts, residents will be thoroughly trained in sensible planning, response, and recovery so that they will be able to effectively deal with disasters in the future.

August Winners

Primary tabs

September's Grand Prize Winner


BEMH: Lisa Szilagyi Media Card

Lisa Szilagyi: Skills for Special Needs Adults

As the mother of a 23-year-old daughter with a disability, as well as a special education teacher, Lisa Szilagyi knows exactly how important it is for adults with disabilities to be provided a safe and creative environment in which they can work on academic, communication, life, social and job skills. That’s why she wants to set up a community-based, lifelong learning transition and day program for adults with moderate to severe disabilities, emphasizing self-determination by putting the needs of the individual first. As young adults with disabilities leave the school system, they often have nowhere to go, resulting in wasted potential. Lisa hopes to address this problem by setting up day programs that allow individuals to be integrated into social, vocational, and recreational endeavors while also ensuring that they can lead productive lives as valued members of their community.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for September

BEMH: Sue Doyle Media Card

Sue Doyle: Taylor's HeArt Gallery

After fearlessly battling a brain tumor for 4 1/2 years, Sue Doyle’s niece Taylor sadly lost her battle to cancer. Seeing Taylor carry herself in such a strong, dignified, confident and positive manner inspired Sue to give back in such a way that would honor Taylor’s memory, especially her love of the arts. That is exactly what motivated Sue to come up with Taylor’s HeArt Gallery — an art gallery that will benefit nonprofits serving kids dealing with severe illnesses, as well as a network of local artists that often do not get enough exposure. For Taylor, art was a great tool in dealing with the “un-copable” — it gave her a reason to survive, thrive, and deal with her circumstance in a positive and optimistic way. Sue desires to uphold Taylor’s name and memory by giving hope and inspiration to others through the power of the arts.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for September

BEMH: Diana Flahive Media Card

Diana Flahive: Homelessness Initiative

Diana Flahive hopes to launch the Women’s Homelessness Initiative to address the alarmingly high number of women who are homeless with a lack of resources. This system is a coordination of seven churches that open their doors one night a week to twenty women who receive a warm meal and place of sanctuary. With a large pool of volunteers who are willing to give up their time, money and effort, Diana’s initiative is still seeking to reach even more at-risk women. Working as a community and interfaith minister, Diana knows first-hand the dire, unhealthy, violent and compromising situations that homeless women can encounter on a daily basis and knows they need the help and assistance of the community in order to move forward.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for September

BEMH: Margaret Gullette Media Card

Margaret Gullette: Free High School

In many countries, people are not admitted to high schools specifically because they are poor adults - they are over 18, often mothers, and live too far from schools. Margaret Gullette is amending this situation by maintaining and expanding a Free High School in an impoverished part of Nicaragua. Margaret trains villagers with a diploma to teach in rural villages, as well as holds classes in a Saturday school. By monitoring the classes so students with problems get solutions, and photocopying the materials so students can keep them, this system sets adults up for success. Margaret believes the loss of adult secondary education is a huge issue in the world, and if addressed, there could be great potential in reducing inequality, drug-use, prostitution, violence and ill-health, as well as opening the door to economic opportunities, democratic participation and community outreach.

Our Other Ideas for Good Winners for September

BEMH: Robert Martin Media Card

Robert Martin: Free Vision Care

For indigent Americans living in the Mid-Atlantic Appalachian area, lack of glasses and proper eye care are serious issues. Lack of vision care remains humankind’s number one physical impairment, learning disability, cause of blindness and perpetuator of poverty. In fact, between 25 and 35 million Americans need eyeglasses they cannot afford. This is why Robert Martin plans to develop and enact a new technology-based system of eye care in this region, similar to the one he has already established in Mexico. In only three minutes, without a doctor and free of cost, diagnoses and remedies for vision impairments are provided, and recycled eyeglasses are also made available. With these resources, Robert hopes to mitigate social problems by improving educational and economic conditions and giving people the ability to learn, read, drive and work efficiently.

September Winners

About Encore.Org (www.encore.org)
Encore.org (formerly Civic Ventures) is a nonprofit organization building a movement to make it easier for millions of people to pursue “encore careers” – second acts for the greater good.

About Participant Media (www.participantmedia.com)
Participant Media is an entertainment company that focuses on documentary and non-documentary feature films, television, publishing and digital content about the real issues that shape our lives. For each of its projects, Participant creates social action and advocacy programs to transform the impact of the media experience into individual and community action. Participant’s online Social Action Network is TakePart (takepart.com). Founded by Chairman Jeff Skoll in 2004, Jim Berk serves as CEO. Participant's films include The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson's War, An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night, and Good Luck, The Visitor, Food, Inc., The Cove, The Crazies, Countdown to Zero, Waiting for "Superman,” Fair Game, PAGE ONE: Inside The New York Times, The Help, Contagion, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Lincoln and Promised Land.

About Penn Schoen Berland (www.psbresearch.com)
Penn Schoen Berland, a unit of the WPP Group (NASDAQ: WPPGY), is a global research-based consultancy with over 30 years of experience that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate, nonprofit and entertainment clients.