Friday, May 06, 2005

An American Hero

***Disclosure - this hero is a relative***

He has an unsurpassed intellect that is directed toward helping others rather than accumulating riches and fame. He has improved hundreds of thousands of lives but has humility to spare.

His academic preparation includes philosophy and physics degrees from Davidson College, a masters in public policy from Princeton, and a law degree from Yale. His wife also graduated from Davidson and Yale, and both were awarded honorary doctors of laws for their lives of good deeds.

Martin Eakes and his wife Bonnie Wright had a vision to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. They were not interested in giving handouts. Instead, they believed that low-wealth families could get a leg up only by getting the opportunity to own a home or small business.

In 1980, Martin and Bonnie started the Center for Community Self Help with $77 of seed money generated from a bake sale. Their first office was the back seat of their car. Since those modest beginnings, Self-Help has provided almost $4 billion in financing primarily to people who would not interest a traditional lending institution.

Along the way, Martin has been recognized as a MacArthur Fellow (genius grant) and one of the 100 Most Influential North Carolinians of the 20th Century by the News and Observer.

Has he rested on his many accomplishments and awards? Of course, not. In addition to running Self-Help, Martin has turned his attention to eliminating predatory lending over the past few years. I will write about that another time.

For now, you can read more about Martin Eakes here, here, and here.


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