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Lifetime's Remarkable Women campaign honors extraordinary women who inspire and empower others to make a difference in their communities and the world.
September 24: Lisa Nigro
Lisa Nigro: Founder of The Inspiration Corporation Hometown: Chicago Achievements: Her nonprofit helps 3,000 people each year by providing meals, housing and other services Lisa Nigro
Lisa is the founder and co-chair of The Inspiration Corporation — a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps people who are affected by homelessness and poverty to improve their lives and increase self-sufficiency through the provision of social services, employment training and placement, and housing.
Lisa's philantropic work started in the 1980s, when as a police officer, she was discouraged from engaging the people she met on her beat. In 1989, stymied by her inability to respond personally to people in need, Lisa quit her job with the support of her husband Perry. She borrowed her nephew’s red wagon and filled it with coffee and sandwiches, which she handed out to people on the streets in Uptown Chicago, where 10% of the city's homeless population lived.
With her on that first day was her friend Lisa Madigan. They were able to speak with people and learn about their issues. Finally satisfied with the richness of her relationships with Chicago’s homeless, Lisa wanted to do more for them; she fitted her car with a mobile kitchen and set up outdoor cafes, serving hot, nutritious meals. Eventually, the Inspiration Cafe moved to a bus and then to a storefront.
Lisa used her charisma and vision and quickly mobilized masses of volunteers. Early supporters included philanthropists Richard Driehaus and Jim Mabie. Kraft funded the mobile kitchen, and real estate developer Peter Holsten offered the Inspiration Cafe its first home. The Inspiration Corporation has since grown into a $3.8 million agency assisting thousands of individuals each year. Today, in addition to serving as the public face and guiding spirit of the Inspiration Corporation, Lisa travels the country as speaker on topics related to volunteerism, nonprofit management and personal growth.
Lisa and Perry live in Rogers Park with their children Emily and Nick.