Blog Post written by Karen Maldonado, Project Manager.
Most of us are starting to emerge from a long hibernation during the pandemic. We stayed at home for work and school, postponed visits with family and friends and avoided local stores and eateries. This slowed many of our affiliates down, too, but it did not stop them or their supporters! There were some who showed us that no matter what, they were committed to serving their community and the environment. Meet our 2021 Beautify Texas Award winners!
Sadie Ray Graff Educator Award
Dickinson High School Science teacher, Bridget Maloney, has a passion for the environment and helping her students connect lessons with real life. Her teaching methods have been described as “unique” and “awe-inspiring.” She has a strong interest in improving Houston-Galveston area water bodies and the impact of clean water on life in general. She has partnered with the Galveston Bay Foundation and TAMU AgriLife on educational programs and environmental improvement projects. In 2019, she began an outdoor classroom with a rain garden and marsh grass nursery. Students grow native chord grass and participate in transplanting this important coastal vegetation into local wetlands. These grasses help to stop erosion, provide wildlife habitat and filter out stormwater runoff.
Ms. Maloney also works to provide clean water to her students and coworkers. With a grant from TCEQ, she was able to install contactless water fountains throughout the school and provide students and staff with reusable water bottles. Ms. Maloney has been involved in Keep Dickinson Beautiful for the past eight years; as long as she has been teaching at Dickinson High School. She personally participates in cleanup events with her family, friends and students. “She doesn’t just instruct, she participates and engages others to participate as well, knowing that actions speak louder than words.” Bridget Maloney leads by example, making her an award-winning educator for Dickinson High School and the community as a whole. Thanks for teaching your students to beautify Texas!
Ruthe Jackson Youth Individual Award
A recent graduate from Allen High School, Meghan Holloran has worked with Keep Allen Beautiful since childhood. Meghan started her journey as a participant in her elementary school Environmental Club. She has participated in numerous cleanup events throughout her youth including regular solo cleanups of Rowlett Creek. Once in high school, Meghan took her interest to the next level. She lead the push to reestablish the Allen High School Environmental Club and served as its Vice President until her recent graduation. She started the club with only three members and during the past school year they celebrated 36 members strong. As a leader in the group, Meghan championed projects like restoring the rain garden at Allen Station Park, regular creek cleanup events and service events at the Connemara Meadow. While restoring the rain garden she partnered with the Connemara Conservancy to replant native grasses that took over the garden. Instead of disposing of them, Meghan coordinated a transplant of these important wetland grasses to two nature preserves.
Meghan brought together her fellow students with local experts and stakeholders through these projects. A natural communicator, Meghan was a staff writer and editor of the school newspaper and participated in various other groups like UNICEF, Interact Club and Rotary. She is also an award winning writer with a Silver Award from the Bow Seat 2020 Ocean Awareness Program. Using her communication and leadership skills, Meghan kept the E-Club going during the pandemic by scheduling weekly Zoom meetings, creating projects with shift work and social distancing and making sure all in-person activities were outdoors and masks required.
O P Schnabel Volunteer of the Year
San Marcos is full of Texas State students, but none as committed to the environment as Azariah Reese. Azariah is studying Physical Geography, which involves natural features and processes like how the earth was formed and how it is changing. “His passion for protecting the environment is not only reflected in his educational endeavors, but in his commitment to making his community a better place to live, work and play.” Azariah has his own Adopt-A-Spot in San Marcos where he has spent 50 hours, in 2020 alone, removing 42 bags of trash and 20 bags of recycling. The Blanco Shoals Natural Area is a popular area enjoyed by hikers and those wishing to access the Blanco River. Azariah prefers to work this spot alone and has often been seen hauling tires and other large items by using creative leverage and ropes.
Azariah may work his Adopt A Spot alone, but he is definitely not a loner. As the vice president of Gamma Theta Upsilon, he has brought the group back to good standing with a separate Adopt A Spot location and leads regular cleanups with them. He also serves as a crew leader for major cleanup events with Keep San Marcos Beautiful, often working with groups of up to 30 volunteers. Azariah stays busy with his KSMB volunteer time, but he also shares with other groups like the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) where he girdles trees, restores habitats, removes invasive species and trains other volunteers. Did I mention he was also a San Marcos River Ranger? Azariah has 50 additional hours in 2020 testing water quality along the river. To top it all off, he often works with Friends of Trees to mulch, trim and plant new ones in the San Marcos area.
Amy Thomaides of Keep San Marcos Beautiful feels that, “there is never a moment when he is not contributing to the KTB vision to make Texas the cleanest, most beautiful state in the nation.” Azariah serves as a great example of passion and commitment to the environment and yet another bright spot for the future of keeping Texas beautiful!
Keep Texas Beautiful Leadership Award
Gail Bruner has been a leader in San Saba since her arrival in 2001. As a new resident, she joined the San Saba Garden Club in order to fulfill her vision of making her new home a beautiful community. Gail has served as the SSGC Treasurer, VP and President. When Keep San Saba Beautiful formed in 2009 she was the first chairperson and held that position until 2014. She lead KSSB through the Keep America Beautiful certification process in 2011 and has been instrumental in several KTB Gold Star years and GCAA awards.
One of Gail’s most personal projects is beautifying downtown with flower pots. Gail has worked tirelessly for years to make this project a success, going through more than one rebirth. Gail even used her own vehicle to transport flowers and she was often seen watering them herself on a daily basis. Gail championed community education and involvement through the San Saba Community Garden, WIP youth education, annual cleanup events and the creation of a Solid Waste Program brochure. She was also behind the push for windshield surveys and a citizen report program, which encourages citizens to get involved and be part of the solution.
Gail is a Master Gardener and still serves with SSGC and KSSB. She also finds time to highlight her community at the local Visitor’s Center. Gail was a leader from the first day she arrived in San Saba and has been pushing them forward ever since. “Her ability to visualize a solution and then produce a successful plan has been crucial to enhancing San Saba.” Gail is celebrated by her community for her leadership and now we all celebrate her for her commitment to beautify Texas!
For more KTB Award winners visit us at www.ktb.org/ktbawards and stay tuned for our upcoming blog about the 2021 Beautify Texas Award Winners – Organizational Categories!