SB CAN fetes five during its North County Looking Forward Awards Dinner on June 7

            Santa Barbara County Action Network will honor five individuals and organizations during its North County Looking Forward Awards Dinner on Sunday, June 7 at the Historic Santa Maria Inn, 801 S. Broadway, Santa Maria. Reception starts at 5 p.m.; dinner at 6 p.m.

            Members of the public are invited to attend.

            The awards are as follows: Deborah Tobola and the Poetic Justice Project, “Looking Forward Award” for leadership and vision; Al Thompson, “Environmental Protection & Sustainability Award;” Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt; ”Social Justice Award;” Peoples' Self-Help Housing, “Working Families Award;” and Laura and Ron Selken, “Giving Back to the Community Award.”

            The Looking Forward Award recognizes strong leadership and vision in community building, civic engagement, and improving the quality of life in our community.

Tobola started the local Poetic Justice Project in 2009 to engage formerly incarcerated youth and adults in original plays that examine crime, punishment and redemption. It helps people to reintegrate into the community.

            Through the project, 87 actors have appeared in 12 theatre productions. Many are active in their communities—creating art, mentoring at-risk youth, counseling people coming out of jail and prison, advocating on behalf of indigent people, and studying at Hancock or Cuesta colleges.

            Several PJP actors have gone on to act in local community theatre productions. One started a theatre company. Another stars in a new web TV show.

            The Social Justice Award is given for promoting fairness, tolerance, equality, respect and compassion for all people in our community.

            Lyons-Pruitt grew up with the injustices prevalent in the Deep South. This helped her develop her passion for defense-related work, civil and human rights, and social justice.

            She is the Chief Investigator for the county Public Defender’s Office, the first African American female in California to hold this distinction. She is a founding member of the Defense Investigator Training Accreditation Academy and a board member of Defense Investigators Association.

            She is the president of the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP and Hospitality Chair and Trustee of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. She is a member of the Five Cities Diversity Coalition and of the Santa Maria Valley Democratic Club.

            The Giving Back to the Community Award recognizes those who give back selflessly to the community through volunteer activities and community projects.

            The Selkens volunteer with the Santa Maria Noontimers Lions where Ron has served as club president, among other positions, and Laura is serving as 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, the North Santa Barbara County Manufactured Homeowners Team, and the AAUW and the Santa Maria Public Library. She also serves on the county Library Advisory Committee.

            The Environmental Protection and Sustainability Award is given for valuing, protecting, and preserving our natural resources and environment.

            Thompson has written garden columns on sustainability, encouraging the idea that gardens can be practical and artistic.

            He 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 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.

The Working Families Award is for helping working families to obtain affordable health care, housing, educational and job opportunities; or to improve wages, benefits, working conditions, and worker rights.

            Peoples’ Self-Help Housing develops affordable housing and community facilities for low-income households and homeownership opportunities for working families, seniors, veterans, the disabled and the homeless in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

             Since 1970, they have developed about 380 self-help homes in Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Tanglewood and Los Alamos, including 117 in Santa Maria for farm workers and their families and 57 units for limited-income elderly residents and developmentally disabled households; 80 units in Orcutt; and 80 in Guadalupe.

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