Organization Celebrates Moving Valley Forward
Forty-two years ago the founders of the local non-profit, Valley Forward, recognized that building in the desert would be a balancing act between people, businesses and their environment. They understood that if our present community was to survive and not go the way of our Hohokam ancestors who left after centuries of sustained growth, recognizing the limitations and harnessing the opportunities of the desert was a must.
While Valley Forward’s founders may have been incredibly forward thinking, the rest of the country has spent the last few decades playing catch up. Now as environmental awareness and sustainability gain footholds across business and public sectors – corporations, developers, municipalities, civic leaders and local business owners have embraced Valley Forward’s effort to create a community that lives in harmony with its environment.
“We’re a fairly young community,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward, “we’re just about to celebrate [the state’s] centennial and there is a lot of opportunity for our region to grow.”
This year as Valley Forward holds its 31st annual Environmental Excellence Awards Gala on Saturday, September 17th, it will celebrate the efforts of more than 130 entrants who designed, developed and implemented new and innovative ways to make the Valley a more livable and environmentally-stable place to reside.
“I’ve been really impressed,” said Brossart, “with the types of groups and what they’re doing. It’s not just the cities, but businesses and corporations are stepping up and leading this.”
While only a select few will take home the coveted Crescordia (Greek for “to grow in harmony”) awards in each of the seven broad-based categories, including buildings and structures, livable communities, site development and landscape, art in public spaces, environmental technologies, environmental education/communication and environmental stewardship, only one will receive the prestigious Presidential Award.
Each year the Presidential Award is awarded to the one organization to most significantly exemplify each of the gala’s seven categories. Last year’s recipient, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, captured the essence of Valley Forward’s mission by creating an environmentally friendly architectural space and gardens in south central Phoenix along the Rio Salado that draws people to it to connect with nature, learn about stewardship and embrace the natural environment.
“[This year’s] finalists demonstrate that there are many shades of green in the Valley,” said Brossart, “and that despite the challenging economy that sustainability is alive and well in our metropolitan area.”
In concert with their 10-year event partner, SRP, Valley Forward will host the 2011 awards gala at the Westin Kierland for more than 600 attendees. In addition to a generous monetary award, each year SRP also donates the time and expertise of their in-house audio/visual department, creating a professional, multi-media presentation that showcases each year’s finalists.
“The gala is one of Valley Forward’s largest fundraisers throughout the year,” said Lori Singleton, Manager of SRP’s Sustainability Initiatives & Programs and committee chair for the Environmental Excellence Awards, “this is one of the ways we can help support the organization and its mission.”
Considered by some to be the Academy Awards of Arizona’s environmental sector, the event attracts a virtual who’s who from across the Valley. Garnering support from such Arizona-based businesses as SRP, APS, National Bank, University of Phoenix, City of Phoenix, Intel and Honeywell; local business owners; and mayors and city council members from across the Phoenix metropolitan area, the gala is one of Valley Forward’s largest fundraisers.
Founded in 1969, Valley Forward has sought to connect and support businesses, corporations, and municipalities as they have worked to develop our desert-based metropolis into a sustainable community for millions. The organization represents cities, architectural firms, law firms, environmental consultants, large corporations and local businesses.
“Our membership is very diverse,” said Brossart. “It’s taking all of their interests and focusing them on how to make the Valley a better place to live – making it more sustainable and improving environmental quality and quality of life.
According to Brossart, Valley Forward’s Environmental Excellence Awards represents the state’s first and only environmental competition of its kind. When it first began in the 1980s, Valley Forward focused on recognizing unique building design in new spaces. Over the years the competition grew to concentrate on more substantial elements such as environmental impact, sustainability, and quality of life.
Today, the gala is Valley Forward’s opportunity to publicly call attention to the success of those making the Valley an economically and environmentally viable community.
For more information about Valley Forward and its upcoming Environmental Excellence Awards Gala on September 17th, please visit online at www.valleyforward.org. Follow them on Twitter @ValleyForward.
Written by Christine Bailey