I hadn’t planned on taking photos at this year’s Environmentalist of the Year Awards, hosted by NMEAC at the Dennos Museum in Traverse City on Friday night. I was there to hand off the award in the Journalism category to this year’s recipient, which I was happy to do, along with my co-winner last year, Stephanie Mills.
But when you walk in the door and your dear longtime friend Ann Rogers asks if you brought your camera, you say, “Why, of course I did, and I’d be honored to take photos!” Which is just what I did, and happy to do it.
Ann’s daughter, Sally Rogers, is one of my best friends in the world and a well-known artist who brought her exceptional work to the Dennos Museum a couple of years ago (read about it here).
Ann, who at 89 has more energy than anyone I know, co-chairs NMEAC (Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council), with Greg Reisig. Each year at the NMEAC Environmentalist of the Year Awards, they hand out awards in a variety of categories to people doing amazing work all year long. Devoted volunteers who work on a variety of issues – clean energy, fresh water, smart development and more – to preserve and protect northern Michigan.
After a tasty spread of food catered by Taproot Cider House, a stirring keynote address by Frank Ettawageshik, executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan, and a few songs by Seth Bernard (who recently launched Title Track, dedicated to building resilient social-ecological systems that support clean water, racial equity, and youth empowerment), the awards were announced in the following categories:
Student: Elk Rapids Indigenous Youth (Ava Willis-Carrol, Naya Pitawanakwat, Dadrian Pitawanakwat, Faith Norberg and A. J. Vanderbraden)
Educator: Kevin Kelly, The Greenspire School
Grass Roots Group: Seth Bernard, Clean Water Campaign for Michigan; and Tricia Denton, Leelanau County League of Women Voters
Journalism & Communications: Sheri McWhirter, Traverse City Record-Eagle
Business: JoAnn and Scott Zenner, Salon Verve
Public Service/Office: David Schaffer, Grand Traverse County Director of Recycling
Professional: Fred Sitkins, Inland Seas Education Association
Volunteer: Barbara Stamiris, Oil & Water Don’t Mix
General: Yarrow Brown, Leelanau Conservancy
Agriculture: Chad Van Tol, Cold Creek Permaculture Farm
John Nelson Water Stewardship Award: Glen Chown, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
Golden Beaver Award: Susan Wheadon, NMEAC
Special Renewable Energy Award: Glenn LaCross, Leelanau Fruit
Clarence Kroupa Award: Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor for FLOW (For Love of Water)
Golden Bulldozer Award: State Senator Wayne Schmidt, who voted in favor of the authorization of the Line 5 tunnel.