Community Renewal International OPUS Prize
Capacity for compassion, outreach inspires others
Mack McCarter thought the email was spam, so he almost hit “delete.”
That could have been a very expensive keystroke.
“It said, ‘Congratulations! You’ve been named a finalist for Opus Prize, which is one million dollars,’” said McCarter. “I was then expecting to read something like, ‘Just send us $10,000, and the million dollars is waiting on you.’ I thought somebody out of Lagos, Nigeria, is sitting in a café typing this thing out.”
Fortunately, McCarter – founder of Community Renewal International (CRI), based in Shreveport – kept reading.
“Lo and behold, I recognized some names, and I went ‘Wow!’ I looked it up and said, ‘Son of a gun!’” McCarter said.
CRI is one of three finalists for the Prize, given yearly to expand the recipient’s humanitarian efforts and inspire others to pursue lives of service. The winner will be announced Nov. 3 in Washington, D.C.
“The significance of it for Shreveport and Bossier City, honestly, cannot be understated,” McCarter said.
Neither can the money which comes with being a finalist. The Laureate – the winner of the Prize – will receive one million dollars. The other finalists will each receive $100,000. The total is one of the world’s largest faith-based awards for social entrepreneurship.
“It’s simply going to feed the work going forward,” McCarter said of CRI’s plans for the money.
“We invest in our people on our staff.
That’s the whole key. Our people really are our program. We have maybe three or four folks who are involved in administration. The rest of our staff – we’ve got about 40 folks – are involved in the entire ministry of connecting people and nourishing those connections and spreading those connections.”
Fifty people around the world anonymously nominated non-profit organizations for the Prize. The list was cut to 12 semi-finalists, then to three semi-finalists.
“No one knows who has been nominated, ” McCarter said. “You don’t even know about the process until you are a finalist … Then they sent a delegation to Shreveport and spent a week with us.”
CRI has a worldwide competition when it comes to winning the Prize. The other two finalists are from Ecuador and Nigeria. Damien House – founded by Sister Annie Credidio – is a residential hospital that cares for people with leprosy. The Interfaith Mediation Centre – co-founded by Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa – works to promote trust and tolerance between Christian and Muslim communities.
“It’s quite humbling to be in the company of those finalists,” McCarter said.
CRI – which McCarter says has a presence in more than 40 nations – connects neighbors and residents to restore the foundation of safe and caring communities.
“We’re a little bit isolated here in Shreveport and Bossier City on the global scale,” McCarter said. “But the great thing is, here, just kind of doing the work of connecting people based on what we share in common – the capacity to care for each other, and then feeding and growing that capacity, as well as embracing and celebrating our differences – that has literally gone global.”
Even if CRI does not win the Prize, being nominated – and being a finalist – is significant.
“It just means a real affirmation to all our folks – our supporters, donors, volunteers and staff – that by golly, we are at least on the right path when we talk about how to heal this world, and Lord knows we need it.”
To learn more about Opus Prize, you may visit www.opusprize.org.
To learn more about Community Renewal International, you may visit www.communityrenewal.us.