Eloise Bodiford - San Clemente, California
Volunteer, Friends of the Foothills
One look at Eloise Bodiford and you know she lies about her age. Watching her work - with high energy, humor, and youthful enthusiasm - confirms it: There's no way she's 85.
Bodiford was born in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Her father, a vaudevillian and jazz musician, chose to raise his family in Thermopolis because he loved the flyfishing there.
While attending Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Bodiford met her husband, whose career in the Air Force later took the couple to Hawaii, the Philippines, Japan, and finally California. Bodiford taught piano, performed at parties, and later ran a post office substation.
Now retired, Bodiford devotes much of her considerable energy to helping the Friends of the Foothills, a coalition formed by the Sierra Club, stop the Foothill South toll road in Orange County. Asked why she's so committed, Bodiford says, "If we allow them to pave over 35,000 acres of open space, if we forfeit our very special ecosystem and all those endangered species, future generations will ask us, How could you lose all that beauty before we had a chance to enjoy it?'
"There's a saying that all the world's a stage," she adds. "I believe everyone's an actor. The question is whether you want to play an active role or sit in the audience. I love associating with the active people of Friends of the Foothills. We're involved. And we're making a difference."
Holly Ferguson Fayetteville, Arkansas
Before she began working for the Sierra Club last November, Holly Ferguson was studying to be an herbalist and teaching anatomy and physiology at a massage school. While some might view her new job as a career switch, Holly sees it as part of the same path.
"I am interested in natural healing and the use of medicinal plants," says Ferguson. "And we need to protect the forests in order to have plants for healing. Everything is connected for me."
Ferguson developed her appreciation for nature while growing up in it. Raised in the Ozark Forest, her childhood home didn't have running water or electricity. "To get to town, we had to climb 200 stairs and drive on a steep, rocky road," she recalls. "So I only went into town occasionally for activities like basketball."
While she may not have been playing team sports every day, Ferguson was developing different skills. "Growing up like I did made me more creative. I didn't have anything, so I had to be creative with everything," she says. "It also made me totally independent. I could go weeks without seeing other people and be fine."
Today, Ferguson sees people all the time, educating students and community groups about the need to protect forests from logging and roadbuilding. She credits her mother for teaching her to care about others, a value that led her to join the Sierra Student Coalition in college. "My reasons for being an environmentalist come from the principles of social justice," says Ferguson. "I believe it's important to stand up for what's right, no matter what the issue."
Mark Walters Miami, Florida
Inner City Outings Volunteer Leader
When Mark Walters attended his first Inner City Outings meeting, he noticed that there weren't many male trip leaders. There also weren't any African American leaders, even though 98 percent of the kids being taken on outings were African American.
"These kids really need to see someone who reflects their culture doing these activities," says Walters, a brain and spinal cord injury researcher at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He felt strongly enough that he joined the Sierra Club, attended a leader training, and has been leading ICO trips for the past six years.
"It is rewarding to see how worlds open up to kids when they are brave enough to experience something new," says Walters. "When we go snorkeling, some kids are afraid to put their head in the water at first. A few hours later these same kids are grabbing my hand to lead me underwater to point something out."
But Walters, who also volunteers to help preserve historic Virginia Key Beach, located on an undeveloped barrier island off the Miami coast, isn't in it just for the kids. "I grew up on a farm in Jamaica, and I was always outdoors," he recalls. "When I moved here, I didn't realize I missed it until I went on an ICO trip. Once I was outdoors again, I realized this is where I want to be. This is what sustains me."
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