Honoring North County community heroes

This "Forward View" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Lompoc Record on May 6, 2015: http://lompocrecord.com/news/opinion/editorial/commentary/forward-view/honoring-north-county-community-heroes/article_1024910e-1350-5365-84da-d2c1775ad2af.html

Lompoc resident Al Thompson is a purveyor of ideas with two major themes — artistic endeavor and the elements of the natural world. He is an arts advocate, gardener, writer and volunteer docent.

Thompson has interpreted Chumash uses of native plants and became the garden historian at La Purisima Mission. He encouraged exploration of wildflowers and plants along the mission trails, eventually having one of the trails named after him.

He writes columns for the Lompoc Valley Botanic & Horticultural Society as well as commentary for the Lompoc Record. He has written columns on sustainability, encouraging the idea that gardens can be practical and artistic.

He is a docent at the Arroyo Hondo Preserve where he leads hiking tours and explains the importance of natural habitats. His own garden is open for the sharing of ideas, including how to economically collect large quantities of rainwater for the drier periods.

Santa Barbara County Action Network will honor Thompson with the Environmental Protection and Sustainability Award during the 2015 North County Looking Forward Awards Dinner on Sunday, June 7, at 5 p.m. at the Historic Santa Maria Inn, 801 S. Broadway, Santa Maria.

SB CAN is giving this and four other awards to highlight the dedication of individuals and organizations and to encourage others to continue their good work.

Deborah Tobola and the Poetic Justice Project will receive the Looking Forward Award for helping people transform their lives. Tobola started the local program in 2009 to engage formerly incarcerated youth and adults in original plays that examine crime, punishment and redemption.

Several of the project’s actors have gone on to act in local community theatre productions. One started his own theatre company. Another stars in a new web TV show.

Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt will receive the Social Justice Award. She is the president of the Santa Maria/Lompoc NAACP, and hospitality chair and trustee of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

She is the chief investigator for the county Public Defender’s Office, the first African American female in California to hold this distinction.

Growing up with the injustices prevalent in the Deep South developed her passion for defense-related work, civil and human rights, and social justice.

Laura and Ron Selken will receive the Giving Back to the Community Award. They volunteer with the Santa Maria Noontimers Lions, where Ron has served as club president, and Laura is secretary and newsletter editor.

They are involved with the Democratic Club of Santa Maria Valley, with Laura serving on the board and editing the monthly newsletter. They are active in their mobile-home park, assisting with various activities including the monthly news magazine. Laura also sits on the boards of the local Literacy Council, North Santa Barbara County Manufactured Homeowners Team, American Association of University Women and the Santa Maria Public Library. She also serves on the county Library Advisory Committee.

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing will receive the Working Families Award. PSHH develops affordable housing and community facilities for low-income households and homeownership opportunities for working families, seniors, veterans, the disabled and the homeless in the Tri-counties.

Since 1970, they have developed about 380 self-help homes in Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Tanglewood and Los Alamos. Each of the complexes includes innovative amenities.

If you would like to help celebrate these progressive leaders in our communities, visit www.sbcan.org for more information.

Jeanne Sparks is associate director for Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at [email protected]. Forward View is a progressive look at local issues that runs every Thursday in the Lompoc Record.