Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Valley nonprofit group doles out ?wild gifts?


Wild Gift, a Sun Valley-based nonprofit organization, granted this week up to $12,500 to each of five projects aimed at improving the environment and promoting sustainable communities.

The organization's mission is to support emerging leaders in their 20s, to launch projects that advance wildlands stewardship, and promote the development of sustainable communities and lifestyles. The organization seeks leaders whose projects will have a continuing impact beyond the one-year Wild Gift grant.

The five 2006 recipients were chosen through a competitive process in May and will begin their projects this October.

"The Wild Gift is delighted to provide these motivated and talented leaders with the support they need today, so that they can change tomorrow's world for the better," said Wild Gift founder and professional wilderness guide Bob Jonas, who lives in the Ketchum area.

Recipients are conducting projects domestically and abroad. They are:

- Gina Olsowski, 23, Chicago, Ill.

Project mission: Produce a book on urban sprawl.

- Kelly Pollock, 30, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Project mission: Design and implement a watershed-based school curriculum for fifth-grade students in Utah.

- Jessica Bell, 28, Oakland, Calif.

Project mission: Train and empower citizens to help evolve the Bay Area into the most sustainable, democratic and socially just region in North America.

- Emily Owen, 23.

Project mission: Help the Contulmo Landowners Network in Chile form a cluster of private protected areas and, in the process, develop a replicable community-based private conservation model.

- Lauren Baumann, 25, Boston, Mass.

Project mission: To identify and enroll three affordable housing managers in Massachusetts in a program to make their existing housing projects as resource efficient as possible by year-end 2007.

"The Wild Gift has provided me with the resources and support to fulfill my dream of supporting visionary campaigns that promote sustainability, empowering others to advocate for social change," said recipient Jessica Bell. "I am proud to be part of a program that gives people the opportunity to advocate for a more sane, sustainable and just world for future generations."

"The Wild Gift's impact goes beyond its five recipients," said fellow recipient Emily Owen. "All of the people involved in our projects will benefit, such as the rural Chilean landowners who are offered conservation and sustainable management opportunities."

In addition to leadership project support, the 17- month Wild Gift program includes a compelling wilderness trek. The 2006 recipients completed a 20-day trek through the rugged Sawtooth and White Cloud mountains north of Ketchum in August.

"The purpose of the trek was to instill the value and importance of wild nature and to nurture leadership skills," Jonas. "They examine their own leadership style, engage in collaboration and decision-making roles, practice communication skills and define sustainability at the individual lifestyle level."

This is the second year that Wild Gift has granted project support. Leaders in the 2005 class produced a documentary film on community farms, established a sustainable income for a rural school in Haiti, implemented a nature writing program for urban youths in southern California, and founded a solar construction company that provides "green" technology to development projects in Ladakh, India.

The Wild Gift is accepting applications on a rolling basis for the 2007-2008 year. Visit www.wildgift.org to learn more about the program and to download an application.




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