SAN FRANCISCO, CA: The Crissy Field Center (CFC) hosted its 10th annual Community Heroes Award ceremony on Thursday, May 27th. Since 2001, the Community Heroes Awards have honored 40 recipients (including our 2010 winners) by recognizing ordinary people who do extraordinary things to preserve, protect, and raise awareness about the urban environment in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Center’s heroes come from all walks of life—volunteers, educators, grassroots activists, concerned citizens, and more—with diverse backgrounds and age groups. What they all share in common is a desire to serve their communities.
In addition to the Community Heroes Award, the Center also presented The Ryan Jones Park Hero Award to three dedicated park volunteers: Vinny Lopes and Ingrid and Jamie Cabada. Ryan Jones, Volunteer and Education Coordinator for the Site Stewardship Program at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, was killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 30 in 2008. An accomplished artist and outdoorsman, Ryan inspired numerous students and his colleagues with his dedication to the parks and his amazing gift to capture, explore, and exude the beauty of life. His legacy continues today with this award, which is given to someone who has made significant contributions to the preservation and enjoyment of the Golden Gate National Parks.
Community Hero Award Winners
Marie Chan is a passionate crusader for environmental health and safety issues. For the past seven years, she has dedicated herself to improving air quality and reducing environmental hazards in the Novato Unified School District (NUSD). As a parent volunteer and Vice President of Environmental Health for Sustainable Novato, her advocacy work has spawned numerous local initiatives and inspired other Marin county schools to create healthier learning environments for students. Her primary focus has been to raise awareness of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)—a chronic medical condition resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals—which is found in paints, adhesives, construction materials, and even common household cleaning and personal care products. “Children are especially vulnerable to the impact of chemicals in the everyday environment as they spend a large portion of their childhood indoors, thus making them particularly vulnerable in school where they can potentially come in contact with a wide range of chemical pollutants,” said Chan. The symptoms of MCS can range from headaches and nausea to more severe cases of fatigue, muscle and joint pain, rashes, allergic reactions, and respiratory illness like asthma.
As a result of Marie Chan’s tireless work, the Novato Unified School District was one of the first school districts to use 100 percent sustainable, non-toxic cleaning supplies, and it is the only school district in the state to receive the California Department of Public Health’s 2010 Achievement in Respiratory Health award.
Kathy Gleason is a founding member of the Concord Naval Weapons Station Neighborhood Alliance, an organization dedicated to preserving open space at the former naval base. Set between rolling hills and the Suisun Bay, the inland area of the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) is one of the largest redevelopment lands that has been available in decades—measuring 5,000 acres that account for a quarter of Concord’s land mass. The Alliance began in February 2006, when Kathy came across a one-page flyer from the city announcing plans to build 13,000 19,000 new homes on the decommissioned land. She discovered that the notice had been sent only to neighbors who lived within 300 feet of the CNWS and as a 36 year resident of the area, Kathy was concerned about the impact of the plan. “A development of this size would be like adding the city of Pleasant Hill to Concord and would affect not only people in the immediate vicinity, but other residents of Concord and nearby cities who would have to deal with increased traffic congestion, pollution, and urban sprawl,” said Gleason. Much of the land is also home to wildlife like golden eagles, quail, pheasants, foxes, coyotes, and black tail deer.
For the past four years, Kathy has donated much of her “free time” away from her job as the Corporate Donation Coordinator at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano to the campaign. Today, the CNWS Neighborhood Alliance has grown to 1,800 families and the city adopted a new CNWS reuse plan in February 2010. The revised plan designates 68 percent open space that will be part of a great East Bay Regional Park and reduces the housing development to less than 12,000 units. The Alliance continues to advocate for the maximum amount of open space, and because of Kathy Gleason’s vision and passion, the City of Concord will continue to have parklands for wildlife and future generations to enjoy.
Ryan Jones Park Hero Award Winners
Vinny Lopes is not your typical 17-year old. On a cold, foggy Saturday morning when most teenagers are still asleep, Vinny is usually up and out with a Hori Hori knife in hand and mud-caked boots on his feet helping the Presidio Park Stewardship team restore critical natural areas within the Presidio. For the past five years, this high school junior has volunteered almost every weekend—more than 250 Saturdays of personal time.
What makes Vinny’s contribution to the park special is not just the number of weeds he’s pulled or plants he’s planted, but his passion and effortless ability to motivate and engage people of all ages. Vinny is a role model for urban students new to the job world with limited experience in the outdoors. Whether it’s leading a game of mafia around the campfire or explaining how to use the restoration tools, Vinny captivates his audience with natural charisma and manages to turn hard work into play with his infectious sense of adventure.
Ingrid and Jaime Cabada fell in love at first sight—on their first day at a volunteer worksite. Over the past 23 years, Noe Valley residents Ingrid and Jaime Cabada, have taken their civic dedication and love for each other and the parks and contributed more than 20,000 volunteer hours restoring natural habitats in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Ingrid and Jaime first responded to a call for volunteers in 1987 and have maintained a steadfast commitment to their national parks. Through two decades and various site projects, their love affair with the parks has only grown stronger.
Today, you can find this 70-year-old dynamic duo in their national parks at least three days a week. As founding members of the park’s Habitat Restoration Team, Ingrid and Jaime have shared their wisdom and passion with other volunteers, and traveled to other National Parks such as Yosemite, Lassen, the Channel Islands, Grand Canyon, and Dinosaur National Monument to help lead restoration projects. Their long-term dedication, generous contribution of time and energy makes them an inspiration for both staff and fellow volunteers and an incredible asset to the natural environment in which they serve.
About the Crissy Field Center
Crissy Field Center is a multicultural urban environmental center, which is a partnership of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the Presidio Trust. The Center offers programs and workshops to school groups, community based organizations, and the general public. Our mission is to encourage new generations to become bold leaders for thriving parks, healthy communities. For more information about the Crissy Field Center and its programs visit www.crissyfield.org.
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