Alberto Tlatoa

South Central Farm Restoration Committee

Alberto Tlatoa is a food justice advocate, social entrepreneur, historian, artist, community organizer and co-founder of South Central Farm Restoration Committee in South Central Los Angeles.  

When Alberto was a child, his family had a farming plot in the largest urban farm in the nation in South Central Los Angeles. However, it was destroyed in 2006. Since that time, the community has risen up to challenge irresponsible development. And over the past decade, Alberto has led a grassroots food justice movement that seeks to transform vacant lots in the heavily industrialized region into community green spaces. He has dedicated his life to his community and public service, working as a volunteer in the nonprofit sector to increase access and opportunities for low-income communities of color. 

Alberto has served in multiracial community-based organizations. He has also spoken at several seminars and conferences, including being keynote speaker for the 2020 American Community Garden Association conference. Alberto is a current board member of the CANNDU Neighborhood Council, part of one of the largest civic engagement systems in the United States. He chairs the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee. He brings to his organizing work a nurturing and compassionate quality that enables him to meet people where they are by building trust and identifying commonalities to inspire and mobilize collective action. 

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Sherwood Bishop

San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance

Sherwood is a recently retired university professor who is passionately devoted to preserving greenways in and around the city of San Marcos, Texas. He is president of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, a volunteer-led group whose mission is to create interconnected parks and greenbelts and to protect natural areas.  

Sherwood spends most of his weekends leading groups of volunteers in constructing, improving and maintaining trails. He’s spearheaded the protection and development of several miles of greenspace and trails. Current projects include a trail called the "Loop and Check" that encircles San Marcos, and the initial plans for the Emerald Crown Trail to connect San Marcos to its northern neighbor, Austin. 

Sherwood's work bridges the community and the environment. He has been pivotal in establishing pedestrian and bicycle connectivity through much of San Marcos. This provides alternative, environmentally friendly transportation routes for residents of the city. Most of these trails have been developed alongside environmentally sensitive water quality lands. The city of San Marcos and the surrounding land falls within the Edward's Aquifer recharge and contributing zones. This aquifer provides drinking water to more than two million and its protection is critical to the vitality of the region. 

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Aster Bekele

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Aster Bekele has been shaping outdoor spaces in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood since 2004 when she created the Felege Hiywot Center. She emigrated to Indianapolis from Ethiopia and brought with her a sense of community and love of service. A retired chemist, Aster started the Youth Farm Initiative, established a food production space to give to the community, and continues to engage partners from across the city. Her focus is on youth farming, care of orphans and cultural expression.  

Through her partnership with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB), Aster developed the community garden at the center, developed Unity Park for community gathering and planting an orchard, supported the planting of hundreds of native trees throughout her neighborhood, and was among the first to adopt her block. 

Aster focuses on food as a way to connect people from different cultures. She connects immigrant children with other youth in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood to educate them about food production, giving back to their community and handling everyday responsibilities. As a KIB Adopt-A-Block captain since 2008, she has led cleanups to remove litter and illegal dumping across the neighborhood, improving quality of life and cleaning storm drains of litter that would otherwise pollute Indianapolis waterways. She has inspired generations of youth in the neighborhood to use their energies toward the community good. 

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Nicole Chandler

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful

Since 2005, Nicole Chandler has worked to beautify the open lands area of Morris Park in West Philadelphia, which were once overgrown with invasive plants, littered with trash and marred by graffiti. Disturbed by its condition, Nicole committed to making a change. Her nonprofit, Keep Royal Gardens Beautiful, has held dozens of cleanups, removing and properly disposing of hundreds of tons of trash and invasive species.  

In addition, Nicole has mobilized thousands of volunteers to create garden areas, planting hundreds of flowers, vegetables and trees while generating significant in-kind donations and building an extensive network of volunteers and partnering organizations. She now hosts Tai Chi and Qigong classes. And art classes and volunteer lunches are held where illegal dumps and graffiti once plagued the park. 

Nicole also has adopted the perimeter of the Cobbscreek Golf Course and the Rose Recreation Center, helping to beautify the view to attractive landmarks in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia. 

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Mike Birrer

Serve Tucson

Mike Birrer created the grassroots organization, Serve Tucson, in 2011 and has been quietly coordinating groups to help beautify the city ever since. He’s built close connections with several schools throughout Tucson and works tirelessly to keep their grounds attractive, install murals and revitalize their gardens.

Mike regularly plans small-scale cleanups, which include picking up trash and removing weeds and other debris along roadways, as well as large-scale beautification projects for streets, neighborhoods and schools through the United Way Days of Caring.

Mike does not actively solicit donations for Serve Tucson; instead he gives freely of his time and resources because it's his life's passion to help make Tucson as beautiful as it can be. He inspires volunteers of all ages to take pride in their community and even asks the students he works with to share what they love about Tucson using #whyilovewhereilive, which is found on murals throughout the city.

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Jinger Wallace

Laguna Bluebelt Coalition

As a co-founder of the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, Jinger Wallace brings together community groups and concerned citizens to protect and restore California’s sea life and regional fisheries. Her work created a unique contiguous Greenbelt/Bluebelt surrounding the city of Laguna Beach benefitting the environment, residents and more than 8 million annual visitors.

Jinger pioneered partnerships with inland water districts and county and city agencies to address dry weather urban runoff polluting Aliso Beach and the nearby State Marine Conservation Area. By tracking and abating unpermitted flows of urban runoff to Aliso Creek, she’s been able to keep the Aliso Beach Sand Berm in place to provide safe public access and health protection from runoff entering the ocean.

Jinger also encourages local residents to become a Berm Buddy to speak up in support of protecting the Aliso Beach sand berm. Her dedication to a healthy ocean has won the support and accolades of many, and the Annual Laguna Bluebelt Photo Contest, which is organized by Jinger’s dynamic team, is now in its 9th year, boasting over 500 entries and generous prizes from local businesses.

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Dori Hughes

Sea Turtle Preservation Society

Dori Hughes is a devoted volunteer. She has a strong passion for protecting endangered sea turtles and their marine habitats. In addition to conserving her local beaches through monthly cleanups, she dedicates her time to both the Sea Turtle Preservation Society and the Brevard Zoo’s Sea Turtle Healing Center.

At the Sea Turtle Healing Center, Dori helps maintain and clean the holding tanks, prepares meals for the sea turtles and feeds them. She also assists the medical staff with treatments and in releasing the turtles back into the ocean when their treatment is complete.

One of Dori’s favorite activities with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society is conducting Nesting Surveys. She loves walking the beach while looking for turtle tracks and educating beachgoers along the way. She is the Permit Holder for Nesting Surveys and is in charge of all the volunteer teams. Dori also reports the data collected to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Susan Spratt

Jolly Avenue Garden

Susan Spratt embodies the spirit of someone who improves the environment and inspires others to do the same. She’s been a passionate, committed volunteer at the Jolly Avenue Garden since 2012 when she fell in love with the refugee community, the beauty and serenity of the garden, and all the programs it offers for well-being, education and employment.

Over the years, Susan has spent countless hours at the garden building relationships with community members, sharing meals, mentoring youth and planning events that promote conservation, healthy eating and urban agriculture.

She aims to teach, inspire and connect both refugees and native-born American volunteers to preserve and cultivate the earth around them. She has also shared her insight, influence and generosity to help Friends of Refugees complete a major capital campaign to build a game-changing green building in front of the gardens, which will actively restore the land to the rainwater state of a virgin forest. This parcel of land will interact with the rains that fall on it just as it did more than 150 years ago, while also serving nearly 8,000 people with opportunities to flourish.

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