Community Organizations and Individuals from Across Country Earn Recognition at 2015 Keep America Beautiful National Conference

by | Feb 5, 2015

Among those individuals recognized with KAB’s highest honors were retired U.S. Naval Officer, Dan Fisher, and Cam Oberting, a pioneering voice for environmental protection in Tampa, Fla., who received KAB’s pre-eminent awards for volunteerism: the Iron Eyes Cody and Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson awards, respectively.  Mr. Fisher and Ms. Oberting were both nominated by KAB affiliate, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful.

The Iron Eyes Cody Award was created in honor of KAB’s landmark public awareness campaign of the 1970s, which is credited with awakening the environmental consciousness of an entire generation of Americans. The Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award was named after the former first lady for engaging our nation in recognizing that aesthetic beauty is directly related to healthier communities, a cleaner environment, and a better quality of life. These awards honored the exceptional volunteer leadership that Mr. Fisher and Ms. Oberting have demonstrated in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.

Keep America Beautiful also bestowed its annual Young Professional Award to Elizabeth Philpott, volunteer services coordinator for Keep Arkansas Beautiful; Sue Smith Leadership Award to Joyce Kagan Charmatz, president of both Keep Chicago Beautiful and Keep Illinois Beautiful; and the William “Bill” Nash Award for new KAB affiliates to Keep Highway Park (Fla.) Beautiful. For a list of National Awards recipients and award descriptions, please go to KAB’s National Awards web page.

“The Keep America Beautiful National Awards program recognizes our affiliates, partnering organizations and incredible volunteers who produce creative, resourceful and meaningful programs and initiatives that help make their communities cleaner, greener and more beautiful,” said Jennifer Jehn, president and CEO, Keep America Beautiful. “It’s my privilege to recognize such valuable, mission-based work that helps communities become more socially connected, environmentally healthy and economically sound.”

The KAB National Conference, the leading nonprofit organization’s premier educational and networking event, brought together more than 350 community improvement leaders, including KAB’s national network of state and local affiliate directors, business leaders, policymakers and other national experts, who focused on framing new ideas and strategies to build and sustain vibrant communities.

“For me, the best part about this conference was the thorough updates on KAB’s national initiatives, including ‘I Want To Be Recycled’ and the blight study,” said Michelle Feldman, executive director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful. “That information is super helpful as I return to my community. I’ll have it at the tip of my fingertips as we plan.”

Conference keynote speaker Peter Kageyama, author of “Love Where You Live” and “For the Love of Cities” and the co-founder and producer of the Creative Cities Summit, explored the value of emotional engagement with one’s city, how that connection is created and nurtured, and how it can be turned into a development resource. In a culminating “Love Note” from Mr. Kageyama to all attendees, he wrote: “What you do for your communities is remarkable. It is a public service of the highest order, perhaps not fully appreciated by city leaders and citizens alike, but one that we know is at the core of place-making, citizenship and creating cities that are not only clean, green, sustainable and livable, but lovable cities that grab us by the heart and refuse to let us go. Long Live Keep America Beautiful!”

“I’m now armed with better tools to lead my board and add more value and benefit to our community,” said Stephen Cushman, president of the board of directors, Keep Wakulla County (Fla.) Beautiful. “We are a strong organization completing many projects each year, but I did gather more ideas to help promote and improve on the strong foundation we have in place.”

Other featured speakers and sessions at the 2015 National Conference included:

  • The Lowe’s “Build & Grow” experiential education session brought together affiliates from across the country to construct 30 picnic tables, which have been donated to the Prince George’s County Public Schools through KAB affiliate Keep Prince George’s County Beautiful in support of the William S. Schmidt Outdoors Education Center. Employee volunteers – Lowe’s Heroes – from three different Washington, D.C.-area stores, assisted KAB and its affiliate leaders in building the tables.
  • Geoffrey Anderson, president & CEO, Smart Growth America, and Ariella Cohen, executive editor of Next City, explored the emerging trends of resilience and how smart governments are improving city services in their “Smart Cities” panel session.
  • Elise Golan, Ph.D., director of sustainable development, Office of the Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, led a session on the “Future of Food,” which explored new technologies that can reduce food waste as well as inventive ways to increase composting.
  • Edwin Pinero, senior vice president, sustainability and public affairs of Veolia North America, and Jay Sherman, lead specialist, freshwater programs, World Wildlife Fund, examined “How H2O Impacts Vibrant Communities.”
  • John Kromer, Joe Schilling and Lee Huang of Econsult Solutions, a Philadelphia-based consulting firm, shared the results of KAB’s “National Literature Review and Development of Metrics for Measuring the Economic Impact of Blight” in the U.S.
  • Pastor Rhea Posey, founder of the Personal Growth Institute, a nonprofit organization that serves at-risk youth in the Atlanta metropolitan area, addressed how to bring communities together for disaster preparedness across all denominations, ethnic groups, cultures and community organizations.
  • Chaz Miller of the National Waste & Recycling Association shared his insights into how the waste stream is evolving and how that evolution is affecting our recycling systems.
  • Members of KAB’s national Youth Advisory Council, supported by the Wrigley Company Foundation, who provided insights into how to engage youth in community service initiatives.

“As a new affiliate, National Conference participation allowed a big-picture snapshot of KAB that helped me better understand how the KAB-affiliate model operates,” said Donna Minnis, Ph.D., executive director, Pemaquid Watershed Association in Damariscotta, Maine. “The conference also was invaluable in that it allowed me to meet in person the KAB staff and many individuals serving in very varied affiliate roles.”

Some of America’s leading companies helped make the KAB 2015 National Conference possible, including:

  • Title Sponsor: Wrigley Company Foundation;
  • Leadership Sponsors: Altria, Lowe’s and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company;
  • Stewardship Sponsor: Anheuser-Busch;
  • Strategic Sponsors: Dow, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Keurig Green Mountain, Reynolds American and the Steel Recycling Institute; and
  • Supporting Sponsors: Northrop Grumman and Owens-Illinois.

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities. With a national network of community-based affiliates, we work with millions of volunteers who take action in their communities to transform public spaces into beautiful places. Through our programs and public-private partnerships, we engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community’s environment. To learn how you can donate and take action, visit, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or view us on YouTube.