2013 Gala Video Found HERE

Outstanding Journalist: George Ellison (Bryson City, NC)

IMG_2072A keen naturalist and gifted writer, George Ellison has spent a lifetime writing about natural and cultural history in the southern Appalachian Mountains. For example, George has written the Nature Journal column for the Asheville Citizen Times for nearly 20 years. Newcomers to the area yearning to learn about the regions natural and cultural history as well as those who are experienced naturalists value his column. George’s writings are key to the conservation movement because without the people of the region understanding, appreciating, and valuing nature, we will lose the struggle to preserve it.


Outstanding Business: Avondale Brewing Company (Birmingham, AL)

avondaleThey are an integral part of the up and coming Avondale area of Birmingham. They regularly host events that bring people together and offer a voice for worthy causes with a focus on improving wildlife conservation efforts, at no cost to the organizations. Additionally, the owners, Coby Lake and his brother, Hunter have revitalized the community in this part of town. From organization support to advocacy for rivers, water, wildlife and mountains to revitalizing the cultural heritage of the city, Avondale is leading above and beyond to be a model business, showing others how to do ‘good’ business!


Outstanding Educator: Heather Montgomery (McDowell Environmental Center, AL)

heatherHeather has been working in the field of Environmental Education for about 19 years. She helped to develop the program at McDowell Environmental Center (MEC) where she worked as Director for several years. She stepped into the role of Education Coordinator about 8 years ago in order to have more time to pursue her dream of becoming a children’s author. Simply by teaching young people about the wonders of the world in which we live, Heather is having a tremendous impact on the future of conservation. But when you consider that in the past 9 years, MEC has hired seven staff who came through this program as students in Middle School, mostly while Heather was the Director, and after getting a college degree, came back to teach here. That is a strong sign that she is making the world a better place through conservation education.


Outstanding Conservationist:  Chris Oberholster (The Nature Conservancy of Alabama)

Chris oberholsterChris Oberholster is a scientist with the unique ability to communicate to people of any education level why conservation of land/wildlife is important and he is able to simplify the complexity of land conservation work so anyone can understand it. Not only can he do that, he inspires individuals, corporate leaders, environmental leaders, and public agencies to work together for land protection. Chris’ approach is low key, factual, and respectful of others’ point of view. He exudes genuine commitment to and passion for conservation and that inspires people to become involved. Chris does not care who or what organization or agency gets credit; he cares about getting the job of conservation done.

Outstanding Youth:  Avalon Theisen (Conserve it Forward/Save the Frogs, FL)

avalonAvalon, who just turned 12 years old, leads the nonprofit she founded, Conserve It Forward, Inc., in raising awareness about environmental challenges, as well as actions ordinary people can do to help; she usually does this with a focus on amphibian conservation, specifically frogs. Her continued goal is to inspire people from all ages and backgrounds to take action, then share it with others, so they will Conserve It Forward. Avalon strongly believes that everybody’s small actions add up to big positive changes for both our local and global environment.Avalon’s projects reach thousands yearly, in person and online, as she shares environmental information and solutions to help people act.

Wild South Awards of Distinction

Brenda Cooke (Asheville, NC)

IMG_0160Brenda has furthered our mission by helping us reach out across the region through visually striking graphic design, including two wonderful posters featuring our work and an organizational brochure. She has also connected us with advertising experts through her role with the American Advertising Federation of Asheville, organized a Wild South outing and fundraiser with Ad Club members, and rounded up a team of eight co-workers at Deltec Homes, including herself, to run a shift at our Bele Chere beer booth last summer.  This award is determined by the Wild South Board of Directors and Staff. It is given to people who have made a significant impact on Wild South’s work over the past year and there is no one more deserving than Brenda Cooke.


Jay Mills (Southwings)

jay flightAs a pilot with Southwings, Jay has volunteered his time and risked life and limb to help further our TN Wild Campaign. He served as a volunteer pilot through our partner group, Southwings, and has spent hours of flight time helping us put this amazing landscape into context. Photos and video from above provide inspiration and evidence of the uniqueness and beauty of our places and Jay’s help has allowed us to communicate those values to decision makers. We are incredibly thankful and proud to recognize Jay Mills as a recipient of Wild South’s Award of Distinction.

Sponsor logo sign- 2013 reception