“They’re your next-door neighbor and your college roommate; they’re teachers, doctors, ex-cons, priests, lawyers, inventors, and orphans. There are quiet heroes among us who embody the power and promise of the American spirit—ordinary men and women who have devoted themselves to uplifting the lives of others,” writes Katrina Fried in the new coffee-table book Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time, available now at bookstores throughout the Hamptons. The tome chronicles a series of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, from Anne Mahlum, who is helping others overcome homelessness through running programs, to Nancy Lublin, who is inspiring the nation’s younger generation to get involved with her organization, Do Something.

From New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, East Enders Fried and publisher Lena Tabori have found a diverse group of inspiring individuals working for change through causes that support a wide range of needs, from breast cancer survivors and widows of American soldiers to the global quest for clean water to parolees and low-income communities, each person so vividly captured by photographer Paul Mobley. “Everybody in the book had a moment when they realized they had to do something,” says Fried. “These [people], whose moments are each very different, all share the realization that they’ve seen something and they know something they didn’t know before. And now that they know it, they can’t ignore it.”

The idea for Everyday Heroes blossomed five years ago, just prior to President Barack Obama’s election and in the early days of the current recession. “We’re a small publishing company [Welcome Books], and we were giving some deep thought to what the world needed at that moment, and considering that we generally publish more expensive, highend art and photography books, how we could make some kind of a contribution,” recalls Fried. “The more we discussed it, the more this idea of really wanting to create a book that provided some sense of hope and concrete ideas about what we could all do to help lift ourselves as a society out of what was a pretty dark place in time developed into this idea of finding individuals who were doing extraordinary things to help other people.”

Fried, who had collaborated with Mobley on a prior project, American Farmer, researched thousands of charities and their founders before painstakingly narrowing the list down to the published 50. “There’s a new phase of social entrepreneurship, and this book illustrates that very beautifully, I think, in the way that all of these 50 people are going about not just surviving as nonprofits, but expanding and growing and succeeding,” says Tabori. “I heard Risa Lavizzo-Mourey [the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] speak last year, and she talked about how important it is to put a face on a story. When she goes to Washington to lobby for various ways to reduce obesity in this country, she brings children with her so that Congress can see the results of our misdirected food policies. This is exactly what this book does: It introduces people. These nonprofits have human energy and passion attached to them.”

Both women found themselves being caught up in the momentum of the inspiring individuals they chronicled. “One of our heroes is Kathryn Hall-Trujillo, and 10 years ago she mortgaged her house in order to take 10 pregnant women into her home who were disadvantaged, African American, needed prenatal care, and needed protection; now she’s got 108 chapters of volunteers around the United States who are doing this work in order to reduce childhood death,” says Tabori. “I’m hoping that there are a lot of affluent people who will read these stories and gain a sense of confidence that if they put their money or their muscle into some of these nonprofits, they’ll gain immeasurably by their involvement.”

Of the 50 Americans featured in Everyday Heroes, 12 are from New York— more than any other state. “New York is still where so many young people who have a sense of real creativity and drive go,” says Fried. “But it all comes down to where they can be the most successful and draw upon a base that’s ready to support the kind of work they do.”

However, one of the title’s most captivating heroes and the first to be selected was Dr. David Vanderpool, who funds his own international disaster relief nonprofit with his medical practice here in America. “One of the things he said really moved me,” says Fried. “He said whenever he comes back from a trip, he has a really hard time adjusting to the excesses of America. He’ll be sitting in traffic behind some huge SUV; he’ll stare at that car and think, How many children could I save with the money it cost to buy that car? That suddenly starts to be how he sees the world, and I think how anybody would start to see the world when they start to do that kind of work.”

While our own community of the Hamptons is one often associated with affluence, it’s also home to many of the country’s most generous philanthropists, including Tabori’s “Hamptons hero,” Bonnie Grice. “She really focuses that show in such brilliant ways,” she says of the radio host. “There’s a tremendous amount of [philanthropic] energy out on the East End, particularly about food, homelessness, and battered women. I’m a huge believer that we have to do some serious work on the food that we put into our bodies, and so my greatest support really has to do with that, especially Scott Chaskey, who runs a brilliant community-supported agriculture spot, Quail Hill Farm. I’m extremely interested in everything that’s happening in terms of saving farmland and making it available for farmers. The Peconic Land Trust is doing tremendous work in terms of saving land, but somehow we also have to figure out a way to get farmers a place to live.”

“As a family, we’ve had a house out here since my sister and I were children,” says Fried. “Ellen’s Run is the first thing that comes to mind, since my mother and my sister had breast cancer, and that quickly became a cause that was very personally important to us.”

Both Fried and Tabori hope—no matter how Hamptonites choose to give back to the community and the world at large—that the book inspires people to recognize the many ways they can contribute. “Every single one of us has gifts and talents,” says Fried. “If you know how to read, you can teach a child who doesn’t. If nutrition is something you care a lot about, you can help bring good nutrition information to low-income communities. I want people to think about whatever they have to give being good enough, because if we all do that, then we have created a culture of giving.”

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