SB CAN honors community leaders

The Lompoc Co-op Development Project is giving the Lompoc community a vision and hope for the future.

Members of a local church brought together community leaders and professionals of different faiths who share the same values and desires for economic renewal to help their economically stressed community.

Their first goal has just been realized —  launching the Green Broom Brigade, a worker-owned, green, cleaning firm. A second co-op business enterprise will be studied later this year.

Through the development of worker-owned cooperative businesses, the project seeks to create sustainable jobs and promote life-changing opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents in Lompoc.

Worker cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by the workers. They follow a well-established, proven business structure with examples throughout the United States and the world.

To highlight these efforts and to encourage others to do more, Santa Barbara County Action Network is awarding the project its Looking Forward Award during the SB CAN North County awards dinner on May 19 at the Santa Maria Inn.

Awards will also be given that night to Judge Rogelio Flores and Bill Libbon of Santa Maria, Mary Ellen Brooks of Vandenberg Village, and Jan Martinez and Dan Mally of Lompoc.

Judge Flores will receive the Social Justice Award for his exemplary work, including the Substance Abuse Treatment Court, the High-risk DUI calendar, the Veterans Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and the domestic violence review calendar.

Judge Flores spent 12 years presiding over the drug court, a program he helped create. He offered hope to offenders with drug, alcohol and mental-health problems by giving them a chance  to get clean through an 18-month program as an alternative to serving jail time. More than 1,000 people have graduated from the drug court.

Bill Libbon will receive the Working Families Award. He is the compassionate and dedicated executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley. For 39 years he has helped improve the lives of more than 40,000 youths. The club provides programs for youth from all backgrounds that teach them values and make them better citizens of the community. Bill’s leadership has made the Boys and Girls Club the tremendous success it is now with two locations in Santa Maria and one in Guadalupe.

Mary Ellen "Marell" Brooks will receive the Giving Back to the Community Award. She has been active in the community, serving on the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and organizing an annual American Association of University Women one-day conference for middle-school girls. Marell has also served on the Citizens Planning Association, County Commission for Women, Vandenberg Village Library support group and the Women’s Literary Festival of Santa Barbara. She was recently elected president of the Lompoc Valley Democratic Club and she writes columns for the Lompoc Record.

Jan Martinez and Dan Mally will receive the Environmental Protection and Sustainability Award. Lots of people talk about beautification, and talk and talk. Jan and Dan very quietly picked a weed-filled empty lot and turned it into a beautiful pocket park in downtown Lompoc. They didn’t stop there, going on to do three more pocket parks, and working on a fifth. They do all the work themselves, have no support group, spend their own money, and use mostly recycled material to create gardens of peace and beauty.

The guest speaker is Karen Evangelista of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts and Education Center. The dinner is open to the public and I urge readers to come and celebrate the contributions these outstanding people have made in our communities. Please visit for more information.

Published April 12, 2013 in the Santa Maria Times. Joann Marmolejo is president of Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at [email protected]. Looking Forward runs every Friday in the Santa Maria Times, providing a progressive viewpoint on local issues.