FULTON — From a group of 14,000 applicants, Fulton Block Builders founder and Administrative Director Linda Eagan has been selected as one of nine AARP Purpose Prize fellows, granting her a slate of resources from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit to support her local development initiative.
Eagan will be among the honorees at the AARP Purpose Prize National Awards Gala on Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Washington, D.C. The gala will be emceed by journalist and CBS contributor Maria Elena Salinas and commentator David Brooks, author of the bestselling “The Second Mountain.”
The AARP Purpose Prize is the only national award that celebrates people 50 and older who are using their life experience to create social change.
Fulton Block Builders (FBB) is a community-sponsored revitalization project staffed entirely by volunteers with the goal of reinvigorating pride in Fulton’s neighborhoods through home improvement projects. The lifeblood of the organization comes from community donors and individuals whose contributions are invested as dollar-for-dollar reimbursement for painting, exterior repair, landscaping, and other homeowner-driven projects.
Participating stores like Burke’s Home Center, ACE Northern, Ontario Orchards, and Lakeside Roofing and Siding have agreed to provide discounts in past years to help homeowners achieve these goals.
The organization was founded in 2016 by Eagan after SUNY Oswego professor Paul Stewart presented the success of his Oswego Renaissance Association (ORA) at a Fulton Rotary event where Eagan is a member.
Every year, Fulton Block Builders has grown its community membership and donor support, according to Eagan.
“In three short years, a positive impact can be seen and felt in our community,” Eagan said in an official statement this week. “The actions of residents taking effective control of their neighborhoods is creating momentum to improve properties, increase property value, create wealth, and attract and retain homeowners. Fulton is once again becoming a place where existing residents want to stay, new residents want to live, and most residents want to invest.”
In 2018, residents invested $468,465, up from $258,030 in 2017. In 2018, a total of 328 property owners submitted pre-applications, up from 209 in 2017, out of which 286 property owners in 34 blocks submitted final applications, up from 171 property owners in 25 blocks in 2017. Twenty-four blocks were awarded $184,214 in Block Challenge Grants in 2018, up from 22 blocks and $135,623 in grants in 2017.
A panel of leaders in journalism, nonprofits, academia, innovation, and entertainment awards the AARP’s Purpose Prize. Although not chosen among the five Purpose Prize Winners (who were awarded $60,000 apiece), Eagan was named one of nine AARP Purpose Prize fellows (who receive $5,000 apiece).
The fellowship status comes with “technical support” from AARP for 2019. Beyond the $5,000 in operational funds she received from AARP, Eagan said as a fellow she will have access to AARP’s seven organizational and leadership classes, offering a “full-fledged” perspective from industry professionals.
“I’m just really thrilled because the national recognition is so valuable and the money will be so valuable as well,” Eagan said. “The $5,000 is a big piece of our goal for the year, but if we can throughout these trainings find out what’s replicable for other rural areas in surrounding counties, that would be very valuable.”
AARP will work with her to increase the group’s transportability and visibility to surrounding central New York communities that would benefit from a similar approach to improving living standards in their communities. FBB’s “elevator pitch,” a pithy appeal to community leaders, will be optimized with the help of a social media specialist to help spread the word about FBB’s good works, according to Eagan.
“I have someone who does social media for us, because I don’t really understand it that much,” she said. “I’m excited to have someone work with us. I will involve my person and try to become more knowledgeable about it myself.”