NOMINATE A VOLUNTEER
The 2018 National Cox Conserves Hero title goes to Phil Pryde of California. His nonprofit beneficiary, The San Diego River Park Foundation, will receive $60,000.
Cox Conserves Heroes is an awards program created by Cox Enterprises and The Trust for Public Land (TPL). The program serves to honor environmental volunteers who create, preserve or enhance shared outdoor spaces in their local communities.
The goal is to inspire and encourage individuals who are making a positive impact on the planet through volunteerism and honor them with financial support to their nonprofit of choice.
Individuals of all ages are eligible to participate in the Cox Conserves Heroes Program.
Vote for your hero
Todd Hornback originated the idea for the White Tank Mountains Conservancy (WTMC) in 2014, after recognizing the mountains and their rich ecosystem were threatened by habitat encroachment and degradation. Thanks to his organization of leaders in conservation, recreation, government and businesses — as well as the establishment of a dedicated volunteer base — the WTMC now thrives with a mission to inspire all to conserve and enjoy the natural and cultural resources of the White Tank Mountains. Hornback’s work for the wildlife corridor conservation has poised the region to become a model for urban conservation and sustainable development.
WATCH Todd’S VIDEO ON White Tank Mountains Conservancy
Phil Pryde has been involved with local conservation groups for 48 years, currently serving on the Board of Directors for The San Diego River Park Foundation and the Anza-Borrego Foundation. He has shaped conservation work in the region by facilitating changes that allowed conservation groups to acquire or otherwise protect federal lands at risk for development, prevented construction of dams on local rivers, advanced planning for multi-use trails and helped create the county’s first USFS Wilderness Area.
Through his decades of dedication, Pryde’s work has resulted in conservation of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, has allowed waterways to run free, provided new recreation opportunities, and created greater access to nature in the region. His fingerprints are all over projects completed by leading conservation groups, and he is equally happy leading students on a nature walk through wildflowers or teaching the next generation of conservationists in a college lecture hall.
WATCH Phil’S VIDEO ON The San Diego River Park Foundation
For over 40 years, Neta Villalobos-Bell has rolled up her sleeves to work on many projects planting native plants and restoring habitats at places like Crystal Lake Preserve in Lake Mary, Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte Springs and Geneva Wilderness Area. A Certified Master Gardener and Certified Florida Master Nationalist with the University of Florida — along with many other accolades and certifications — Villalobos-Bell has been heavily involved with the Seminole Audobon Society as a board member and president, where she started a children’s program with monthly educational trips and activities. She shares her experience and enthusiasm for nature through presentations to garden clubs, nature centers, schools and even TV, making an appearance on the government television series “Wildlife Matters.”
WATCH Neta’S VIDEO ON Florida Native Plant Society
Isabelle González Whitaker was looking for way to honor her recently deceased mother, a Cuban immigrant and leader in Georgia’s Hispanic community, when she discovered Coronet Way Park on the border of Atlanta’s Bolton Corridor. The park was available for renaming, and Whitaker saw potential to refresh and revitalize the space. Leading the entire initiative, Whitaker assembled a committee of neighbors and community leaders to determine the design of the park, organized volunteer work days and raised over $230,000 in private funds. Sara J. González Park, the first park in Georgia named after a Latino, now serves as a Hispanic cultural beacon and a safe, inclusive community space that fulfills a need in an area with little public greenspace.
The park aims to celebrate diversity and accessibility through the design and execution to honor the legacy of a community leader, while bringing together diverse communities to play and connect in a safe greenspace.
WATCH Isabel’S VIDEO ON Park Pride
Jenni Peters has a reputation for working tirelessly to provide safe alternatives for pedestrians, with past projects including engaging over a hundred volunteers to create a safe path below a dangerous overpass. More recently though, she started an anti-litter program called “Pick Ups,” where organized groups of runners go for a run and pick up trash along the way. These organized “Pick Ups” have taken place in Baton Rouge, Mandeville and New Orleans, in partnership with sponsors like Saucony and the New Orleans Track Club.
As the initiative grows, regular “Pick Ups” are being organized in each city. By activating her 13,000 followers, Peters engages her community to determine where the next “Pick Up” should be, allowing others to make an impact on their communities through anti-litter activities while also connecting with the active runner community.
WATCH Jenni’S VIDEO ON The Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge — the BREC Foundation
Paulina Lopez is a community and environmental activist and South Park resident. South Park has the highest rate of youth per capita in the area, but with very few youth programs available. Lopez leads the Youth Corps program, working tirelessly to better her community and the environment, and steering youth away from gang involvement. A four-year-old program, Youth Corps supports environmental and health improvement projects including urban forestry, neighborhood tree planting and graffiti cleanup. The program also introduces youth to concepts of environmental justice, educating them on the history of the Duwamish river — from the home of the Duwamish tribe to its heavy industrial use by Boeing during WWII and now to its status as a Superfund site.
In addition to leading the Youth Corps, Lopez sits on the Steering Committee to Revitalize Duwamish Waterway Park, a community-led effort to activate and revitalize South Park's only riverfront park.
WATCH Paulina’S VIDEO ON Seattle Parks Foundation
Shavel’le Oliver went from youth participant, to program coordinator to co-chair of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC). She is dedicated to working with business owners to determine strategies for helping Mattapan prosper in a green and healthy way. She has co-led five and led three successful Mattapan on Wheels bike-a-thon events, which celebrate the greenspace and parks in the area and highlights what is needed to improve the community. Before Olivier’s work, Mattapan was not known as a community that promoted biking. Each year the bike-a-thon grows, and community efforts toward conservation grow along with it.
Olivier also oversees the youth program of the MFFC, taking on initiatives to bring resources to help the community’s youth, like securing funding to provide jobs for youth who work on food access, physical activity and environmental issues.
WATCH Shavel'le’S VIDEO ON Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition
The Indian River area of Chesapeake is an older suburb of Norfolk that suffers from aging infrastructure, declining shopping centers and a lack of green space. Ross founded the Friends of Indian River in 2012 to engage the area’s residents, focus attention on the community’s assets, improve access to the parks and raise environmental awareness. In the past six years, the organization has attracted a core of dedicated volunteers and established strong partnerships with the City of Chesapeake, the Elizabeth River Project and local civic leagues.
Ross acts as an environmental leader in the community by serving on the Chesapeake Environmental Improvement Council, and by volunteering regularly for initiatives like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s “Clean the Bay Day.” He also organizes regular cleanups for Adopt-A-Highway and Adopt-A-Park and leads nature hikes and invasive species removal at Indian River Park.
WATCH Rogard’S VIDEO ON Friends of Indian River
Since 2008, we have honored more than 200 volunteers across the nation who have helped us make a significant impact on conservation and environmental protection in our communities. In partnership with TPL, an organization that protects and creates parks, we have donated $990,000 to environmental nonprofits through the James M. Cox Foundation.
Cox Conserves Heroes is part of Cox Enterprises' national Cox Conserves sustainability program.
Learn more about how it works
Creates, protects and/or beautifies an outdoor community space.
Works on a volunteer basis that is not part of their employment.
Inspires others to engage in community conservation.