Richard Proudfit beams with excitement as he explains the mission that has driven him and his nonprofit work for more than 30 years: Feed starving children around the world. His journey toward that goal began in 1974 in Honduras, where he was helping survivors of Hurricane Fifi.
"When I stepped backward I saw the children for the first time," says Proudfit. "They were dying all around me."
He went to work immediately, trying to figure out ways to get food to poverty-stricken children in underprivileged countries. The answer was simple: Give them nutritious food. Making that happen took some teamwork.
He reached out to food producers and neighborhood volunteers to come up with a fast, cheap, easy way to package nutritious food to those who need it. He reached into his pockets to start and expand nonprofits, like Kids Against Hunger headquartered in New Hope, where they could bring those efforts together.
"He came back and he said I’m going to make a difference and he has invested his life and his wealth doing that," says Gary Korpi, director of satellite operations for Kids Against Hunger. "And he asks for nothing in return. Nothing in return, except give me the same passion. Help me feed children."
At 82 years old, Proudfit continues to work 16 hour days. Even a stroke about five years ago has not slowed him down.
On June 19, Proudfit will receive the national Jefferson Award for public service benefiting the disadvantaged. The Jefferson Award is considered by many to be the "Nobel Prize of public service."
He will be honored in two ceremonies in Washington, D.C., alongside other national Jefferson Award winners, including CIA director David Petraeus and Harry Connick, Junior.
Proudfit says he's humbled by the honor. He also insists on sharing it with the many volunteers, nonprofit employees and companies that have helped him realize his vision.
"I can’t do it alone," he said. "We can do it. We can feed the world."
June 15, 2012