THE BLOG
06/22/2010 11:57 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

International Financier Invests in Jobs

When you get to know Shari Berenbach, you will like her, respect her and be inspired by her. Hundreds of thousands of people already value Shari...and they haven't even met her yet!

Her secret fans include homeowners who live in the 17,000 homes that she has helped build or rehabilitate, 430,000 workers all over the world whose jobs she has helped create and the leaders, employees and beneficiaries of 25,000 cooperatives, social enterprises and community facilities that she has financed. Shari is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Calvert Foundation.

The Calvert Foundation's mission is "to maximize the flow of capital to disadvantaged communities in order to create a more equitable and sustainable society." Calvert is the anti-Wall Street bank.

Calvert is not about charity. Think about the good old days when real banks in real towns financed real things run by real people.

Calvert has nearly $200 million invested in 250 community organizations in all 50 states and over 100 countries. Calvert's portfolio finances "a range of social causes and innovations, including affordable housing, microfinance, Fair Trade coffee, small business development, and the establishment of essential community facilities such as charter schools, daycare centers and rehabilitation clinics."

The money comes from everyday people who earn a financial return. Not so long ago, the interest paid would have been considered modest, but these days, with mainstream financial institutions in disarray, investing with Calvert is a pretty good deal. You make money and your community thrives.

Shari is this year's Economic Opportunity Achievement Award recipient, presented annually on World Poverty Day by the Opportunity Collaboration. She is being honored for exemplifying the words of President Kennedy, "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

Shari Berenbach is the social entrepreneur everyone aspires to be: a connect-the-dots, collaborative, tough-minded, kind-hearted anti-poverty leader. Her own words:

"Two recent films were really wake-up calls for me... : "An Inconvenient Truth," which addresses climate change, and "Food Inc.," which exposes our disastrous food system. It used to be that I thought that climate change and food systems were someone else's cause (while I was busy working on poverty alleviation). Now, I see that this is all connected and that no one is immune from the impact of climate change. In fact, poorer families are all the more at risk... Our food system is unsustainable and causes great environmental degradation and serious health issues -- again, affecting the low-income communities we care so much about....I would like to see more sustainable, healthy lifestyles -- not just for the rich, but for all of us!"

Couldn't have said it better myself.