Over the past few years, Tim Will, 61, of Rutherfordton, has worked to bring broadband to his county and connect local farmers with restaurants that need their produce. Now he's been recognized with a $100,000 Purpose Prize, a national award given to social innovators over 60 who are applying their skills to solving problems facing their communities.
Will took the top spot in the country in the fourth annual awards. After a career in broadband that took him around the world, he decided to devote his time to helping his local area after his first granddaughter died from a heart defect.
"I realized that I would never take life for granted ever again," Will says in a video segment announcing the award. "That was the moment I decided to work for social justice until my last breath."
In his work with the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center, Will has overseen the laying of 100 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the area while providing training in computers and sustainable agriculture to the area's farmers. He also set up a way for Charlotte restaurants to buy food from local producers online, something he says works out well for both the farmers and the restauranteurs.
"Finally, demand for this fresh food outstrips supply," he says enthusiastically on the video. "What we're working on in Rutherford is a complete restructuring of the way we feed our society."