From a pool of six finalists, Terence Lester, founder and executive director of Atlanta-based Love Beyond Walls, has been named the recipient of Independent Sector’s 2020 American Express NGen Leadership award. As the recipient of the award, Lester will receive an honorarium intended to support his work and/or further his leadership development. Lester will also give remarks during Independent Sector’s Upswell Summit, Oct. 14-16.
The American Express NGen Leadership Award honors an accomplished charitable community leader age 40 or under who has demonstrated a significant impact in addressing society’s critical needs. For 10 years, Independent Sector has presented this prestigious award to one emerging leader whose creative and collaborative leadership is helping to solve an intractable community challenge.
“Terence Lester’s commitment to social justice and efforts to continually raise awareness about issues regarding homelessness, poverty, health, and economic equality are in perfect accord with our Upswell Summit’s focus on anti-racism and COVID-19 recovery,” said Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “His work to address systemic poverty, mobilize thousands of people to serve those that are vulnerable and forgotten, and create solutions to help individuals rebuild their lives is an admirable illustration of how collaborative leadership can accelerate transformative social change. We are proud to honor him as the winner of the 2020 American Express NGen Leadership Award.”
In addition to supporting the NGen Leadership Award since 2010, American Express has partnered with Independent Sector to offer the NGen Fellows Program, part of the American Express Leadership Academy that provides training, networking opportunities, and skill-building resources to social purpose leaders.
“Terence’s mission to raise awareness about the homeless, creatively find ways to get others to walk in their shoes, and develop solutions to help them transition out of homelessness exemplifies the amazing work underway by emerging changemakers across the nation,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “We are pleased to recognize his extraordinary efforts with this award.”
In 2013, Lester with his wife founded Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit that provides dignity to the homeless and poor by offering a voice, visibility, shelter, community, and grooming and support services to achieve self-sufficiency in Atlanta and beyond. In 2019, the couple launched Dignity Museum, the first traveling museum in the U.S. that represents homelessness out of a shipping container, using interactive technology, research, storytelling, exhibits, and thought-provoking questions that help visitors confront their ideas of homelessness and challenges of escaping it.
In March 2020 as the coronavirus started to spread, Lester came up with the idea to set up portable washbasins that are sold for RVs and camping. With the help of Grammy-winning artist Lecrae and Reach Records, Love Beyond Walls started the Love Sinks In campaign and now has handwashing stations in nearly thirty cities around the country.
The inspiring story caught the attention of media outlets around the world, including CNN, Good Morning America, Today, Disney, The Weather Channel, International Business Times, NY Daily News, USA News Hub, MSN, Reader’s Digest, and countless others.
Lester was among a pool of more than 80 nominees considered by Independent Sector staff and its award selection committee. In addition to Lester, the group of finalists included Brandon Anderson, the founder & executive director of mobile police tracking app Raheem; Chanel Hampton, the founder and CEO of Strategic Community Partners; Laxmi Parthasarathy, chief operating officer of Global Press; Niya White, the principal of Congress Heights Campus of Center City Public Charter Schools in Washington D.C.; and, Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, the founder of the Tribal Adaptive Organization.