A few years ago, after reading a New York Times story about a photo exhibit that documented the fight to eradicate polio, William Shore C’77 (better known as Bill or Billy) hopped a train in Washington and traveled to New York for the express purpose of seeing the 38 photographs in the exhibit. His interest was more inspirational than aesthetic.
Shore is founder and executive director of both the nonprofit organization Share Our Strength, which has raised $180 million to fight poverty and hunger in its two decades of existence, and its for-profit subsidiary, Community Wealth Ventures. While the images of children receiving oral vaccine in places like India, Somalia, and the Congo didn’t relate directly to his organization’s mission of ending hunger, for Shore the photos chronicling a world on the brink of eliminating the scourge of polio meant that the work he has focused on for more than 20 years will someday come to a happy end.
Today the Washington-based Share Our Strength employs a staff of 40 that coordinates thousands of volunteers throughout the United States. A grantmaking process allows direct-service and advocacy organizationssuch as food banks, school breakfast programs, children’s hospitals treating malnutrition, and advocacy organizations seeking to change public policyto apply for funding. Share Our Strength supports more than 200 nonprofits a year, including the Boston Food Bank, the Chicago Food Depository, Bread for the World, the Food Research and Action Committee, and Project Mercy.
“Images lead to action,” Shore wrote in a letter about his trip to the gallery where the pictures were on exhibit. “Some photos cause funds to be raised. Others might lead to Congressional hearings. Eventually public consensus builds, presidents speak, laws are passed. And the world changes. Our vision of ending hunger is no less ambitious. It is no less complex. But it is every bit as achievable. Not this year, or next, and perhaps not during our lifetime. But when it happens it will be because enough of us worked to create both awareness and wealth, because enough of us took the trouble to see, and because we understood that the role each of us played was critical to the final outcome.”
Shore travels frequently, giving more than 100 speeches a year, and he often writes letters like this one to his staff and board of directors at Share Our Strength. The letters are an important part of his work. (Many of them are available on the organization’s website, www.strength.org.)
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©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
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