140619_HER07_32Bill Gross

Age: 47
Hometown: Anchorage
Cause: Help for beleaguered farmers

Gross comes from three generations of farmers. But his parents were struggling by the time he graduated high school, and they urged him to get an education. Gross went to college, got a pilot’s license and now flies a 747 for UPS worldwide. But it was his bird’s-eye view of dying crops across the U.S. that was the inspiration for Farm Rescue, which he founded to help farmers disabled by illness or accidents, or whose small farms (under 3,000 acres) had suffered natural disasters. “I wanted to back to my roots,” Gross says. In 2006, he and four volunteers planted and harvested for 10 families. Today Farm Rescue’s 700 volunteers and borrowed equipment have assisted more than 280 families in five states. With increased donations — spurred on by a three-year, two-for-one challenge grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust — Gross hopes to expand his operation.

Says Gross:

Several of the farm families we’ve helped become volunteers. They’re paying it forward.”

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