This past May, we were excited to celebrate three of our amazing Central Group activists and volunteers at the 2023 Angeles Chapter Awards Banquet!

Innovation in Outings Award: White Cane Hike Team  (Will McWhinney accepting)

Will holds award given to him and Hearts for Sight founders and ICO volutneerWill McWhinney, our indefatigable Outings Chair, helped jump-start hikes for the blind and visually impaired. Since 2019, in collaboration with an organization dedicated to providing access to nature for the blind and visually impaired and with the support of Inspiring Connections Outdoors (another Sierra Club group), the White Cane Team led almost 40 hikes monthly, sometimes with up to 50 people, for around 235 visually impaired and blind Angelenos and guides. Last year, with Will’s experience as an instructor for wilderness hiking and camping, the group added camping trips to their list of activities.  

White Cane Hikes involve numerous volunteers from a variety of affiliations. The hikes require a 1:1 volunteer-to-VIP ratio, meticulous scouting, accommodations, and other unique challenges. The team’s enthusiasm and energy has resulted in growing participation. The collaboration is an example of people from diverse backgrounds coming together inclusively to benefit a community empowering themselves equitably, in the spirit of the Jemez Principles.

Congratulations, Will and the White Cane Team. You all deserved this award as a reflection of your amazing work.

Environmental Justice Award: Linda Cleveland

Linda holding her award with DyanaLinda is immersed in a seemingly endless list of environmental justice initiatives – right where she lives. She was part of the “40 Million Reasons to Go Electric” campaign, and helped coordinate a ride-and-drive event in Watts, working to bring awareness and support for electric vehicles to her community. Linda also recently helped organize the Wattskanda Renaissance Parade, uplifting community developments for a healthier Watts.

She also helped lead efforts on the South Los Angeles AB 617 Community Steering Committee and has advocated for increased funding and an expansion of the community boundaries. Linda is also involved in the Tree People Watershed Leadership Group, Watts Rising-Transformative Climate Communities advisory group, and various other community leadership roles. She eats, sleeps, and drinks her community’s well-being. 

Linda is both an activist with Sierra Club and helps lead Watts Clean Air and Energy Committee (WCAEC), a Sierra Club partner. 

Linda and her daughter, Jackie Badejo, were just honored in the South Coast AQMD’s 2022 Clean Air Awards, receiving the award for Leadership in Air Quality for their work promoting air quality and climate awareness for the Watts Community and for their work on the Community Steering Committee.  

Linda is being recognized today for her consistent and determined efforts toward social and environmental justice. We’re proud of you!  

Sierra Club Ambassador Award AND Innovation in Activism Awards: Mathieu Bonin 

Mathieu gets a thumbs from from DyanaDuring the pandemic, when acquiring a full roll of toilet paper might have been your only goal, Mathieu Bonin created a safe outdoor event that was both educational and good for the environment. He started Trash Talk Saturdays, where volunteers are invited to pick up trash at urban parks while learning about its history on a live conference call (listening in through ear buds). Volunteers thus can maintain social distance while experiencing nature and learning.

Mathieu’s first Trash Talk, at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park, was included in the L.A. Times’ “Wild” column. He and Sierra Club volunteers have now cleaned and learned about parks around the region, including South Park, Bosque del Rio Hondo, Sepulveda Basin Nature Reserve, Griffith Park, Elysian Park, Ascot Hills Park, Debs Park, Elyria Canyon Park, Hollenbeck Park, and Lincoln Park.  As Mathieu puts it, “My idea is that knowledge enhances our appreciation of most everything; it’s a cognitive approach.”

Trash Talk Saturdays are posted on MeetUp, and the public is welcome! We salute Mathieu for his innovation, and meticulous and interesting research exploring each park’s history and sociology, often pulling in politics, class, race and gender.