2016 Freshwater Hero Awards

2016 Freshwater Hero Awards

Ontario Water Centre

OnrioWaterCentreTen years ago, Annabel Slaight and Jane Meredith took a canoe trip through some weedy waters. Little did they know the adventure they were embarking on.

Soon after, the two formed “Ladies of the Lake,” an impactful group of over 100 women championing Lake Simcoe’s return to health. After great success with fundraising and innovative projects to engage citizens, the Ladies turned their attention to an inspiring new educational initiative, the Ontario Water Centre.

Freshwater Future had the pleasure of working with the “Ladies” as they prepared for this transition. Through our Insight Services, we were able to provide organizational support as they moved towards becoming a new charitable entity.

The Ontario Water Centre is about advancing water thinking—including encouraging people to “think” like water. In its short history it has seen many successes. ReWilding Lake Simcoe has brought over a million dollars to clean-up and restoration, the award-winning kids book “Do Fish Fart?” is engaging kids, and local water festivals and online mapping have engaged people of all ages. Their flagship project, the ClearWater Farm, promises to connect water innovation, local food and healthy communities.

Freshwater Future is pleased to present the Ontario Water Centre with a Freshwater Hero Award, truly demonstrating the power of individuals to change the world—or in this case, their lake!

Kristy Meyer

20801_FWF_March2016 PROOF_Page_3_Image_0004For over three years, Kristy has been a tireless champion for Freshwater Future as the President of our Board of Directors. We’ve benefited greatly from Kristy’s passion and dedication in many ways. She developed a process for evaluation and improvement of the board’s effectiveness, improved the way we recruit and engage new board members, and led the organization’s renewal through a strategic planning process. Under Kristy’s leadership, the Board has grown and developed into a sophisticated structure that supports the growth of Freshwater Future.

In her job at the Ohio Environmental Council, Kristy and her team are at the heart of the fight against toxic algal blooms. They are busy proposing solutions, educating residents, and convincing elected officials to take action to restore the health of Lake Erie.

Kristy also works on a number of the other issues we hold dear, including keeping invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, protecting water supplies under the Great Lakes Compact, and ensuring ongoing financial support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

No wonder Kristy is up with the sun each morning. We will miss her on the board but look forward to working with her on all things
Great Lakes.

Deborah Dorsey

20801_FWF_March2016 PROOF_Page_3_Image_0003Deborah Dorsey originally became involved in her Detroit neighborhood group, West Grand Boulevard Collaborative (WGBC), simply because she wanted to make her community a safer, cleaner and a nicer place to live. Little did she know it would turn into a career change.

Soon after Deb got involved with WGBC, she found herself invited by her local Sierra Club representative to Freshwater Future’s Climate Symposium. She was hesitant—what did her goals for her neighborhood have to do with climate change?

As it turns out, a lot! Deborah took what she learned and incorporated it into a project at her local library. WGBC built a children’s
reading garden with rain garden features that will help their neighborhood be better prepared for the impacts of climate change such as bigger storms, flooding, and property damage.

Deborah was also recruited to and joined the Freshwater Future board where her willingness to help, give a valued opinion, fundraise through our Walk, Paddle and Roll event, and promote our efforts have all been critical to our success.

One of Deborah’s most valued strengths is her vision and energy for what is next—Deborah is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit management. We know Deborah will continue to make a difference in her neighborhood, community, and anywhere she goes!

Nancy Staley

20801_FWF_March2016 PROOF_Page_3_Image_0005“I need a hug.” This is always the first thingyou hear when you work with Nancy Staley. Nancy started volunteering with Freshwater Future in 2014, and although it has been a few short years, she has put in countless hours helping prepare mailings with her beautiful handwriting and attention to detail.

She comes early, stays late, and always gets a lot of work done! Nancy’s smile, hugs, and tireless work ethic remind us that there is room in every day for both hard work and laughs.

As a native of Charlevoix, MI and an avid volunteer, Nancy has built a great relationship with other nonprofits in the community of
Freshwater Future’s home office in Northern Michigan—so much so that we try to coordinate our mailings so we can snag her whenever she is available. Her work, and the work of volunteers, are integral to grassroots work.

Hugs for many more years to come!

Farms Not Factories

20801_FWF_March2016 PROOF_Page_4_Image_0003Farms Not Factories formed in response to a proposed Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in their community of Bayfield, Wisconsin. This farm proposes to raise 26,000 hogs. . .in other words, it would produce between 6.5 and 9 million gallons of toxic liquid manure every year. This is roughly the same amount of excrement as a community of 50,000 people—but unlike human waste, this waste isn’t treated. It would be the biggest pig industrial farm in the state.

As a volunteer organization, Farms Not Factories works tirelessly to learn from experts and to research threats to their air, water, human health, and way of life. By bringing this information to people in the community and organizing with others who share their concerns, this group has created a powerful movement that is effectively capturing the attention of decision-makers.

This movement isn’t giving up until they are assured the way of life for their Lake Superior community, which depends on clean air and
water, is protected from these grave threats. For that, we congratulate Farms not Factories for their work!

Lee Willbanks

20801_FWF_March2016 PROOF_Page_4_Image_0004Who can fill a conference room with over 100 people from two countries, on a Saturday…in New York’s North Country…each and every February…to talk about a river? Lee Willbanks can.

He brings these people face to face with river champions that range from fourth graders sharing their experiences on the water, to leading scientific experts, to the policy makers involved in big decisions about the health of their cherished St. Lawrence.

In his dual roles as Executive Director of Save the River and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, Lee leads a small but mighty team dedicated to protecting the massive river that runs past the door of their home base in Clayton, NY.

From on-the-water monitoring and restoration efforts, to educating the next generation of river champions, to his persistent and passionate advocacy on complex policy issues like aquatic invasive species and regulation of water levels, you can trust that Lee is there, standing up for the St. Lawrence, each and every day.

Should you find yourself on the shores of the St. Lawrence wondering:Who is watching out for the river? Who is listening to the river? Who is providing a voice for the river?

Take comfort in knowing that Lee Willbanks is. For that, we are both lucky and grateful.


Across the country sulfide mining has been polluting surface and/or groundwater with acid mine drainage, sulfuric acid and/or toxic metals.

Across the country sulfide mining has been polluting surface and/or groundwater with acid
mine drainage, sulfuric acid and/or toxic metals.

WaterLegacy is a grassroots citizens’ group formed in response to the threat of what would be the first sulfide mine proposed in the State of Minnesota.

This group is leading efforts to protect land in the Superior National Forest, adjacent to the Boundary Waters. They are lands that are designated as High Biological Diversity and on which Native American tribes have rights to hunt, fish and gather reserved under treaties. The proposed sulfide mine by PolyMet would harm endangered and threatened species and would conflict with federal
fiduciary responsibilities to tribes as well as state and federal statutes, regulations and policies.

In response, WaterLegacy has been vigilantly working to educate the public and media. As a result, they are changing the one-sided conversation that was undermining their communities’ economic and environmental sustainability.

WaterLegacy is also a leader in advocacy efforts to state and federal agencies, bring together groups from around the state and region
to create a powerful impact. They have consistently brought solid, scientific and legal information to decision makers that is resulting in better protections for area waters. The Great Lakes Basin is lucky to have such hard working advocates!

Bonnie Danni

20801_FWF_March2016 PROOF_Page_5_Image_0004Bonnie Danni has been a heartfelt supporter of Freshwater Future for almost 16 years. She has been President of our board, helped improve and maintain our accounting systems as a volunteer, became our first monthly major donor, and has played a critical role as Financial Manager on our staff. She has helped with all of this, while always, always, always having a smile on her face and encouraging words to share.

In addition, Bonnie has an amazing sense of stewardship for our Great Lakes, almost radiating a sense of love and caring for these amazing waters. She is a problem solver, a whiz with numbers, has a generous heart that shines through her work and support of Freshwater Future—all descriptors that pop to mind when one thinks of Bonnie’s personality and talents.

Freshwater Future is fortunate to have such a dedicated supporter, who has helped us grow and mature in a multitude of ways, and continues to share herself with us for the good of our Freshwater Future.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.