Cox Conserves Heroes

2017 Cox Conserves Hereoes (names contain links to videos)

  • Arizona: Eric Sophiea founded Climbers Association of Southern Arizona in 2015 to build an empowered group of rock climbers who give back to the community. As President, Sophiea dedicates thousands of personal volunteer hours managing all levels of the registered 501(c)(3) organization. He has forged collaborations with nonprofits and conservation agencies, including the AZ Wilderness Coalition, AZ Conservation Corps and the US Forest Service. His nonprofit of choice is the Climbing Association of Southern Arizona .
  • Boston: Robert Cuddi joined the New England Aquarium’s field-based volunteer program - the Live Blue Service Corps - in 2015 and has since been among the organization’s most active stewardship volunteers. Cuddi has dedicated hundreds of hours toward conservation efforts in and around Boston. He’s been a longtime volunteer educating visitors at the Aquarium, has assisted cold-stunned sea turtles at the Aquarium’s Rescue and Rehab center, led volunteer cleanups at Revere Beach, worked with the Boston Water and Sewer Commission to label storm drains to protect them from dumping and much more. Cuddi’s projects improve the local environment and build connections between people and their natural surroundings. His nonprofit of choice is the New England Aquarium.
  • California: Robert (Bob) Byrnes leads the restoration efforts for the San Diego Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Not only does he invest his personal time to the organization's efforts, he also sets aside time to encourage and train other volutneers on best practices. Bynes and his team of dedicated volunteers spend countless hours removing invasive plants that could potentially harm wildlife. His nonprofit of choice is California Native Plant Society.
  • Virginia: Barbara Duerk has long been a visionary force in the Roanoke Valley, known for her tireless pursuit of building a better community and equal opportunity for all residents. Her efforts toward civic endeavors include activities such as preparing and serving food for the homeless, advocating for cycling as a form of transportation and recreation, helping young girls gain confidence and leadership skills through outdoor activities and supporting the preservation of the Appalachian Trail Club and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Her nonprofit of choice is the Roanoke Valley Chapter of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Western Washington: Mark Boyar is passionate about the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Valley. For the past 20 years, Boyar worked tirelessly to improve the Valley. His efforts have brought others volunteers forward to help develop an accessible, ecologically healthy, recreational area that the public can enjoy. In the early 90’s, Boyar and a group of other volunteers joined forces to build the arching bridge over the river at the Middle Fork Trailhead. He has displayed vision, volunteerism and tenacity as he facilitates support for the Middle Fork by working with public agencies, elected officials, nonprofits and local citizens. His nonprofit of choice is Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

2016 Cox Conserves Heroes (names contain links to videos)

  • Arizona: Shawn Redfield serves as a fulltime volunteer trail director along the 800-mile path from Mexico to Utah. He connects people with land by engaging and inspiring volunteers of all ages to care for the Arizona Trail. He replaces gates, conducts trail work and installs signage among many other activities to ensure visitors have a positive experience. His nonprofit of choice is Arizona Trail Association.
  • Atlanta: Linda Cotten Taylor believes that park maintenance and improvement is everyone’s duty versus just a few individuals. She brought this belief to life by securing funding to make improvements at Chapel Hill Park that include a playground, fishing pier, fitness stations and signage. In addition to being the park’s lead fundraiser, she facilitates volunteer cleanups and works with the Parks Department on security issues. Her nonprofit of choice is Park Pride.
  • Boston: Adam Crellin-Sazama is creating a better future for the planet and inspiring his fellow teenagers to make a difference. He created a movement called Youth United for Animals and the Planet and advocates on the important role zoos play in animal conservation. While volunteering at the zoo, he cares for animals and educates visitors on conservation and climate change issues. His nonprofit of choice is Zoo New England.
  • California: Lee Heller advocates for outdoor recreation for individuals and their companion animals. Recognizing that Summerland Beach was being impacted by leaking and abandoned oil wells, she organized a coalition of concerned stakeholders to address the issue. Thanks to Heller's advocacy, the State Lands Commission is currently working toward future remediation opportunities. Her nonprofit of choice is Environmental Defense Center.
  • Louisiana: Rory McCracken is passionate about Louisiana’s gulf and its marine life. At only 17, he’s spent nearly half his life leading the charge to conserve and protect. He’s designed t-shirts and written books to raise awareness, as well as donated the proceeds to help benefit restoration and conservation efforts. One beneficiary of his support is Audubon Louisiana’s Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue program. His nonprofit of choice is Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)
  • Orlando: Shanta Barton-Stubbs is connecting students with gardening and healthy living. Through the New Image Youth Center, students created a community garden where they grow and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. The program also includes cooking and exercise classes to encourage healthy, active lifestyles. Her nonprofit of choice is New Image Youth Center.
  • Virginia: Alan Ford is passionate about the environment and local habitats. He educates the public about native and invasive plants and the importance of watershed management. Ford has volunteered thousands of hours across multiple environmental organizations to protect and restore the environment. His nonprofit of choice is Potowmack Chapter.
  • Western Washington: Helen Hoenig started picking up trash while walking from her house to the health club. It evolved into a passion for picking up trash. Her yellow trash bags and neon safety vest are easy to spot, and Hoenig’s resolve to keep Washington green has made her a colorful local celebrity after being named Grand Marshall of the Duvall Days parade. Armed with her yellow bag and trash grabber, she continues to pick up litter and people's spirits. Her nonprofit of choice is Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

2015 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Arizona: Marilyn Hanson retired from teaching in 1999 and turned her energy into caring for her adopted home in Southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. She is a docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, volunteer at the Arizona Native Plant Society and a volunteer lead for the Sonora Desert Weedwackers. Through her work, she is preserving the Sonoran Desert ecosystem and educating others of its importance. Her nonprofit of choice is the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center.
  • Atlanta:  Tom Branch transformed an overgrown space into Frazier Rowe Park. He has coordinated hundreds of volunteers to create a trail system and lead a forest restoration. The workdays bring families together and help the community participate in intergenerational activities like hiking, gardening, bird watching and outdoor enjoyment. His work is teaching future generations about community service and the importance of the environment. His nonprofit of choice is Park Pride.
  • Boston: Rocky Morrison was born and raised on the Merrimack River and couldn’t bear to see the Methuen shoreline he played on as a kid littered with debris. Ten years ago he founded the Clean River Project, a volunteer initiative that has since removed thousands of tires, 56 cars and tons of recyclable materials from the Merrimack. The debris is collected in booms along the river, then removed and sorted for recycling. Today, residents are enjoying a cleaner river where nesting eagles, heron and fish are thriving. His nonprofit of choice is the Clean River Project.
  • California: Jordan benShea has been instrumental in growing public awareness about the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens and is committed to the urban farm model. She also serves on the boards of the Community Environmental Council and Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association. She volunteers as a spokesperson for the organizations at community events to share her eco-experiences and encourage others to live a sustainable life. Her nonprofit of choice is Community Environmental Council
  • Louisiana: Patrick Armstrong is the co-leader of NOLA Trash Mob, a group of volunteers who cleans up public lands. Patrick organizes bi-weekly trash cleanups using social media. Since 2013, the group has held over 70 cleanups and removed nearly 10 tons of litter from New Orleans’ public outdoor spaces. Under Patrick’s leadership, NOLA Trash Mob has grown to more than 1,100 volunteers through innovative partnerships with neighborhood associations, rotary clubs, universities and Friends of Lafitte Corridor. His nonprofit of choice is Friends of Lafitte Corridor
  • Orlando: Chuck O’Neal has advocated for Florida’s natural resources for more than 15 years. An entrepreneur and lifelong Florida resident, Chuck has volunteered hundreds of hours educating voters and lawmakers on the importance of conserving Florida’s unique ecosystem. He organized “Speak up Wekiva,” which engaged community leaders and the public at large in the need to protect the aquifer and created greater awareness about the ill effects of groundwater pollution on people and wildlife. Chuck also leads advocacy efforts for the protection of the Florida black bear and played a vital role in the passing of the Florida Land and Water Conservation Initiative in 2014. His nonprofit of choice is the League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund
  • Virginia: Heidi Ketler has volunteered more than 2,000 hours with the Blue Ridge Parkway by clearing trails, cleaning overlooks and building community connections. She has engaged more than 200 volunteers and helped remove more than 2,500 pounds of trash and 1,800 pounds of recyclables from the Parkway. Her nonprofit of choice is Roanoke Valley Chapter of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

2014 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Arizona: Greg Clark uses his engineering expertise to save the area’s burrowing owls that nest underground. The burrows are often crushed by heavy equipment, so he has led hundreds of volunteers in a movement to create artificial burrows. More than 500 displaced owls have successfully been relocated. His nonprofit of choice is Wild At Heart
  • Atlanta: Bob Scott puts his lawnmower to use to create and maintain a new trail leading people to Peachtree Creek. Scott is building an urban refuge in the heart of metro Atlanta and sharing trail maps with neighbors to encourage outdoor activity. He brought neighbors together through a Georgia Conservancy Greenspace Visioning program, and they now have a shared goal to connect the BeltLine and Emory through five miles of walking trails. His nonprofit of choice is South Fork Conservancy.
  • Louisiana: Matt Thomas helps preserve Baton Rouge’s lake system to provide a safe, healthy and beautiful setting for local citizens and visitors to enjoy. He organizes work days to remove invasive plants and debris that cause water quality problems. The area is frequently used by fans attending sporting events, so Thomas installed trash bins to prevent littering. His nonprofit of choice is The University Lakes Improvement and Preservation Association (TULIPA)
  • Orange County: Frank Capolupo brings educational tours to life for children, inspiring them to learn more about the ocean and how it impacts our lives. He also speaks at local clubs and organizations about the importance of environmental education and ocean awareness. His nonprofit of choice is Ocean Institute
  • Santa Barbara: Inspired by her two-year old daugher, Rebecca Claassen used her healthcare background to educate local citizens on the impact of toxins in the local water supply. She’s been the catalyst behind creating a group of informed and engaged volunteers who promote clean water. Her nonprofit of choice is Environmental Defense Center.
  • San Diego:  Mel Lions cultivates, empowers and educates sustainable food communities within San Diego. He mentors students and other volunteers in farm tasks and interactive tours at Wild Willow Farm. By teaching sustainable food practices, he is affecting the way food is grown and reducing negative impacts to the local ecosystems. His nonprofit of choice is San Diego Roots Sustainable Food Project.
  • Virginia: Brian Batteiger builds new trails and prevents erosion on older trails. His work enables outdoor exercise and connects hikers and mountain bikers with areas such as Carvins Cove. His volunteer work with Pathfinders for Greenways extends beyond trail building to include website development, equipment maintenance and volunteer recruitment. His nonprofit of choice is Pathfinders for Greenways.  

2013 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Arizona: Brad Lancaster educates the community on the benefits of rainwater harvesting and planting native, food-bearing shade trees. He leads a team of volunteers to provide neighbors with fresh and nutritious local food products. His annual tree planting events have resulted in 1,500 new trees. His nonprofit of choice is Desert Harvesters and Green Infrastructure Planning.
  • Atlanta: John Gordon's volunteer work helps reduce crime, establish greenspace, clean up trash and empower residents for sustainable change. He leads the Teen Summer Clean Up Program where local teens help beautify the neighborhood. He also transformed a vacant lot into the English Avenue Community Urban Farm to provide greenspace and access to fresh produce. His nonprofit of choice is Friends of English Avenue
  • Louisiana: Bart Everson's volunteer service has been critical in creating a rail-to-trail opportunity in the heart of New Orleans. The 3.1 mile trail links the French Quarter, Tremé, Mid City and Lakeview to create a safe non-motorized transportation route. An annual hike of the route has grown from 3 to 400 participants. His nonprofit of choice is Friends of Lafitte Corridor.
  • Orange County: Alice Apkarian has volunteered weekly for the past five years as a museum docent at the Environmental Nature Center, helping to increase the community’s knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the natural world. She volunteers mostly “behind the scenes,” supporting staff as they educate more than 18,000 students who visit the center each year. Her nonprofit of choice is Environmental Nature Center.
  • San Diego: As a member of the River Rescue team and San Diego River Park Foundation volunteer corps, Barbara Palan has worn a broad range of hats, from answering phones and serving as a native plant docent to leading hikes and planting trees. Her nonprofit of choice is San Diego River Park Foundation.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: Lynn Adams' strong leadership, tireless enthusiasm and hard work are major reasons why Pacifica’s beaches are clean. She is a powerful advocate for clean oceans to protect marine species, and her passion has inspired thousands to join her quest. She leads PBC’s Earth Day activities, which included more than 8,500 volunteers in 2013. Her nonprofit of choice is Pacifica Beach Coalition.
  • Santa Barbara: Susan Epstein is an advocate for conservation practices that have led to greener and healthier environments for thousands of children in the Goleta Valley. As a parent and Goleta School Board member, Epstein led efforts to eliminate pesticides in 120 acres of playing fields used by the district’s 4,000 students and community groups. The district’s use of alternative green practices has become a model for other county agencies and districts. Her nonprofit of choice is Center for Sustainability at Santa Barbara City College.
  • Virginia: Bill Gordge has helped maintain Roanoke’s section of the Appalachian Trail for three decades. He helped design, build and expand the local trail network, while also teaching crews and students about sustainable trail construction. His goal is to get people of all ages outdoors to appreciate the beauty of nature. His nonprofit of choice is Pathfinders for Greenways.

2012 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Arizona: Melinda Gulick was selected for her long-standing commitment to and passion for Arizona's open space. By cultivating donors and working through complex financing models for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, she built important awareness among both corporations and citizens. She also volunteers for the Desert Foothills Land Trust, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, the City of Scottsdale Preserve Commission and the Desert Discovery Center Task Force. Her nonprofit of choice is McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.
  • Atlanta: Donna Shearer was selected for saving the Hemlock trees in North Georgia. She leads education and treatment programs to protect the trees against the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an invasive insect. Her nonprofit of choice is Save Georgia’s Hemlocks
  • Bay Area: Charlie Bowen was selected for a decade’s worth of volunteerism. She has been the engine behind restoring and growing Berkeley's historic network of public paths. Her volunteer group turns overgrown and fenced off paths into beautiful areas for runners, tourists and walking groups. Her nonprofit of choice is Berkeley Path Wanderers Association.
  • Orange County: Michael Beanan was selected as Orange County's 2012 Cox Conserves Hero. He leads a movement to prevent urban runoff from Aliso Creek from entering the ocean. The goal of his project is to clean the urban runoff, combine it with recycled water, decrease reliance on potable water and ultimately reduce ocean pollution. Nonprofit of choice: Laguna Bluebelt Coalition
  • San Diego: Sally Nelson helped raise more than $20,000 for the San Diego River Field Station. She is a founding volunteer of the Park Patrol and the Gate Keeper programs that help keep the San Diego Riverbed, trail and community safe. His nonprofit of choice is Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy.
  • Santa Barbara: Martin Camp volunteers for a local, urban farm to educate people on the importance of sustainable food and conserving land. From fixing aging farm equipment to building an education center, he is a hands-on volunteer who also inspires others to volunteer. His nonprofit of choice is Fairview Gardens.
  • Virginia: Anne Little launched Tree Fredericksburg with the goal of planting and sustaining an urban forest in our city. She has not only been successful, but she now has legions of volunteers that are dedicated to the cause- including lots of kids. Clearly focused on the future, Anne leads the city's Clean and Green Commission and also supports the local Sierra Club. Her nonprofit of choice is Tree Fredericksburg.
  • Western Washington: Laura James is an eco-friendly scuba diver and commits her time to cleaning up Earth’s oceans. She has long recognized the danger of toxins in our waters and spends time removing batteries and other pollutants from Puget Sound. In addition, Laura volunteers for search and rescue missions. Her nonprofit of choice is Sustainable West Seattle.

2011 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Atlanta: Na'Taki Osborne-Jelks is spearheading efforts to revitalize a 26-acre urban forest preserve and nature center in the middle of a low-to-moderate income community in Southwest Atlanta. She has raised money and engaged hundreds of volunteers to manage the Outdoor Activity Center (OAC). She also led a 9-month visioning process to develop a new Master Plan to improve, enhance and ensure that the OAC meets the needs of the community. Her nonprofit of choice is West Atlanta Watershed Alliance.
  • San Diego (Adult): Denise Stillinger brings 25 years of volunteerism to wetlands conservation. She actively protects the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and its watershed by leading nature walks, picking up debris and serving on the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy’s board. Most importantly, she introduces children from inland communities to the reserve in hopes of inspiring future acts of conservation. Her nonprofit of choice is San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy.
  • San Diego (Youth): Isabel Herrera translates awareness of coastal issues into action. Over the last three years, she has inspired over 1,500 people to protect the ocean. She teaches families about endangered sea turtles and how they can take simple actions toward protection, such as using canvas bags instead of plastic, as well as water supply and how to limit water usage and improve its quality. Her nonprofit of choice is Ocean Discovery Institute.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: Naftali Moed had a vision for an organic vegetable garden to teach fellow high school students about the value of organic gardening and sustainable agriculture. Under his leadership, the vision has become a reality with 10 garden beds, a chicken house and an outdoor classroom space. The garden is a living lab for science classes and a source of food for the nutrition classes. His nonprofit of choice is Pie Ranch.
  • Virginia: Chris Clifford created new fields and park amenities for Gloucester residents to enjoy. Chris helped construct fifteen athletic fields at local schools and parks, as well as a park entrance road and a wildlife habitat pond. After building the fields, he recruited volunteers to help seed, fertilize and cut the grass to maintain the areas. His nonprofit of choice is Park Partners, Inc.

2010 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Atlanta: Angel Poventud is an avid volunteer who utilizes his grassroots network to advocate environmental movements and inspire others to become involved. His weekends are spent working on BeltLine clean-up projects and helping the group convert abandoned rail corridors into parks. When not volunteering for the BeltLine, he can be found planting and mulching with Trees Atlanta. His nonprofit of choice is Trees Atlanta.
  • New Orleans: Jenga Mwendo returned to the city following Hurricane Katrina and immediately began working to revitalize gardens. She has converted the Laurentine Ernst Garden into a vibrant space and secured the donation of a storm-damaged cottage next door for garden use as a storage shed and library. Through creative thinking and diverse donations of time, materials and talent, she is also transforming the Guerilla Garden from an overgrown lot used as a dumping ground into a beautiful centerpiece for the community. Her nonprofit of choice is New Orleans Food and Farm Network
  • San Diego (Adult): Mark Jorgensen has devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to help preserve land and habitat in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Mark was instrumental in creating Camp Borrego, where each year, more than 300 underserved fifth graders participate in the free three-day camp to learn about geology, paleontology, archaeology, astronomy, endangered species and global sustainability. Mark also led the charge in an annual field count of the endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep. His nonprofit of choice is The Anza Borrego Foundation
  • San Diego (Youth): Dakotah Flowers used recyclable materials to create dolls that hold messages from children affected by AIDS living in HOKISA (Home for Kids in South Africa). These “Messenger Dolls” have been auctioned and sold at fundraising events. Proceeds directly benefit the orphaned children of HOKISA.  Dakotah has recruited friends to help create the dolls and is expanding her collection of bottles, cans and other revenue-producing recyclables so she can use her creativity to create new items to sell to benefit local causes. Her nonprofit of choice is Chula Vista Nature Center.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: Bruce Beyaert founded the Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC) with its mission of completing the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond. Due largely to Bruce’s ongoing efforts, Richmond will have over 28 miles of Bay Trail built by the end of 2010. Bruce created strong alliances for completing the Bay Trail in Richmond and built a support group of more than a 1,000 members. His nonprofit of choice is San Francisco Bay Trail Project.
  • Western Washington: Jan Holmes volunteer work with Beach Watchers inspired her to earn a master’s degree in Marine Biology, which led to the health of the area’s marine environment. Her leadership created extensive research and data collection on more than 30 beaches, and her thirst for knowledge is contagious. She frequently spoke with students and at public education events to motivate others to get involved. Her nonprofit of choice is WSU Island County Beach Watchers

2009 Cox Conserves Heroes

  • Atlanta: Don Wells is an avid advocate for conserving - and enjoying - the open spaces of the North Georgia Mountains. He designed and managed the creation of new recreation facilities at no cost to the state and involved counties. He also contributed to the creation of the Amicalola Falls handicap access trail, 18 miles of scenic trails and an interactive trail designed for a therapeutic riding program. Don makes it possible for people of all ages to enjoy the North Georgia Mountains. His nonprofit of choice is Mountain Stewards.
  • San Diego (Adult): John Willett, a World War II veteran, has been volunteering for the Otay Valley Regional Park for more than two decades. All told, this 88 year old’s cleanup and restoration efforts have removed 700 tires, 1,400 tons of trash and 150 homeless encampments from the park. As chairman of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, John helps address and solve park issues such as vandalism, trash and homeless encampment. His nonprofit of choice is Wildcoast.
  • San Diego (Youth): Sonya Vargas volunteered countless hours – more than 200 to be sure – as a Steering Committee Member for the Wetland Avengers’ Campeones de los Canones - a community-based habitat education and restoration event. Sonya’s passion and commitment to her community resulted in the recruitment of more than 950 volunteers who planted 2,500 native plants, restored two acres of canyon, created a school garden, and designed an outdoor classroom. Her nonprofit of choice is Aquatic Adventures.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: Lennie Roberts has volunteered thousands of hours toward natural resource preservation over a span of 40 years. She worked to protect the natural beauty of and public access to Edgewood Park, the Peninsula Watershed and San Bruno Mountains by successfully lobbying for power lines to be routed underground rather than criss-crossing the land. Lennie gives unwavering support to land conservation through her grassroots efforts and keen knowledge of environmental laws. Her nonprofit of choice is Committee for Green Foothills.
  • Western Washington: Gary Colley helped create permanent protection of a 38-acre farm. Gary’s donated legal work has been a key element in protecting more than 1,500 acres of land since he and other local citizens established North Olympic Land Trust in 1990. The land in Clallam County protects salmon and other wildlife habitat, sustainable commercial timberland, clean water and air, scenic vistas, open space and cultural heritage areas in addition to farmland. His nonprofit of choice is North Olympic Land Trust.

2008 Cox Conserves Hero

  • Western Washington: Mike Town was the program's first Cox Conserves Hero. Mike helped turn the Wild Sky Wilderness Act into law. He founded a local grassroots group, spent hundreds of hours documenting every component of Wild Sky - 106,000 acres near Skykomish - and consulted members of Congress and the press on boundary issues. As a result, a new wilderness was created this past April within an hour’s drive of nearly one million people. His nonprofit of choice is Washington Wilderness Coalition.