For the last 48 years, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has believed that the best results come from bringing people together to find common ground, then working to deploy “boots on the ground” to bring clean water projects to fruition. Building partnerships is in our DNA. We are privileged to honor four incredible champions this year at our 14th Annual Taste of the Chesapeake, Sept. 26 in Annapolis.

Each year, the Alliance selects an individual to recognize with our Frances H. Flanigan Environmental Leadership Award. This award was established in 2001 in honor of Flanigan’s 23-year career of leadership and partnership-building throughout the watershed as executive director of the Alliance. The award recognizes a person whose longstanding commitment to the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake reflects the Alliance’s mission of fostering diverse partnerships and building local action to inspire environmental stewardship.

This year, we are honored to present the 2019 Flanigan award to John Cox, former CEO and chairman of the board of Turkey Hill Dairy.

In partnership with the Alliance and the Maryland Virginia Milk Producers’ Cooperative Association (MDVA), John was a driving force in building the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership. The partnership was created to support efforts by farmers in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County to improve the health of Lancaster’s rivers and streams. Through this initiative, Turkey Hill is leading the way for the private sector to do its part for clean local streams and rivers in the Lancaster area.

In 2018, the Alliance met John at a Businesses for the Bay networking forum that we hosted in coordination with the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. Our Pennsylvania state director, Jenna Mitchell, asked him how many of the farmers supplying milk to Turkey Hill had conservation plans. He took that question back to Turkey Hill, then worked with their dairy supplier, MDVA, to include financial incentives. Turkey Hill pays farmers a premium for their milk once they come into compliance with conservation plans.

The Alliance has helped leverage about $1.5 million in funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help MDVA farmers providing milk to Turkey Hill with implementing practices on the ground. With more than 140 farmers participating, this partnership, driven by Cox’s vision and energy, is driving major improvements to local water quality in Lancaster County.

This project demonstrates that leadership in the private sector can accelerate conservation actions — leadership John has been vocal in helping to replicate in other CEOs and businesses. Turkey Hill has made information about their practices freely available to motivate other businesses to adopt similar approaches. As the partnership has grown, its successes have shown that the effort is replicable in other agricultural industries.

The Alliance is proud to honor John with the Fran Flanigan Leadership Award for his significant strides in creating innovative public-private partnerships that make a big impact on the land and water in the Lancaster area as well as the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Thank you, John, for your leadership in the restoration movement!

The Alliance will also honor three Watershed Champions at our Taste celebration for their outstanding contributions to the Chesapeake watershed through innovative thinking, initiative, and the development of inspiring and impactful partnerships to advance stewardship in the region.

Katherine Antos had an impressive start to her career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, where she crafted a 15-year plan in partnership with the six Bay states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government that was instrumental in establishing a road map for pollution reduction goals in the Chesapeake Bay for 2025.

In addition, as an ambassador for the Anacostia River under the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, Katherine worked with government, watershed and community-based organizations to restore the river and enhance opportunities and access for underserved neighborhoods. She aspired to deepen community organizations’ engagement around the future of Anacostia Park, climate adaptation and watershed restoration.

Katherine is the branch chief for the DC Department of Energy and Environment “Partnering and Environmental Conservation Branch,” which brings together District and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, businesses and residents to restore and preserve the District’s waterways. She works to improve water quality, manage stormwater, reduce litter and enhance the District’s resilience. The Alliance is thrilled to be honoring Katherine as a Watershed Champion at this year’s Taste for her work to activate District residents in environmental projects and enhancing community resilience.

Kimberly Hickey, one of the founding members and leaders of the Stormwater Disciples at Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church, was the backbone and driver of an extraordinary effort that brought together watershed groups, government agencies and practitioners to address the severe flooding issues at the church’s hallowed and historical cemetery.

Throughout the project, Kimberly collaborated with both internal and external partners to facilitate discussions around the issues, brainstorm solutions and shepherd a stream and wetland restoration project from conception to completion. She even spearheaded a community volunteer day to install plants in the wetland portion of the project.

Kimberly serves as the treasurer for Asbury Broadneck United Methodist Church and is an Anne Arundel County Watershed Steward (class of 2017). Because of Kimberly’s championship efforts — along with the efforts of the rest of the Stormwater Disciples — the church’s stream and wetland restoration project protects the cultural and natural resources that are so very important to her community and the region. The Alliance is honored to be celebrating Kimberly as one of our 2019 Watershed Champions!

The Rev. Patricia Gould-Champ of Faith Community Baptist Church has been a driving force behind an extraordinary project that quickly outgrew the initial concept and soon became something much more important. In 2016, the Alliance received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to form partnerships with the faith community to engage congregants in our RiverWise program in Virginia. The program’s goal was to link creation care with stormwater pollution reduction on church properties with hopes that congregants would carry the ideas and principles of these practices into their personal lives and begin making changes at home.

But when the Alliance began working with the Rev. Gould-Champ and Faith Community Baptist Church, something much more powerful began to take place. Rather than just installing stormwater practices, the Alliance’s funding was able to help support Faith Community’s larger goal of addressing food justice issues in the East End of Richmond. Faith Community installed a solar-powered rainwater harvesting system, fruit trees, a berry patch, a native plant and meditation labyrinth, six raised gardens in which eggplant, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, basil and other vegetables are planted, and an African keyhole composting garden. These gardens, named the Garden of Hope by the congregation, became the beginning of a much larger effort to create a local farmer’s market in the heart of a community with high impervious cover, and little access to affordable fresh locally grown food.

The Alliance is excited about the direction that this project is headed, and would like to honor the Rev. Gould-Champ, and the entire congregation of Faith Community Baptist Church, for their inspirational leadership in creating a sustainable and healthy community.

Our environmental award winners are representative of many others whose dedication inspires all of us every day.

We invite you to join us at our 2019 Taste of the Chesapeake on Sept. 26 in Annapolis to celebrate these inspiring environmental leaders and champions, and to support the Alliance’s critical work to bring together communities, companies and conservationists to improve the lands and waters of the Chesapeake Bay. For information about our Taste, please visit allianceforthebay.org/taste.