Bay Awakening Reflections: Thank You For Your Sustaining Support

transcript of speech written by Executive Director Casi (kc) Callaway at the annual Bay Awakening Breakfast at the Battle House Renaissance Hotel. 

Above: Mobile Baykeeper Staff pictured at Bay Awakening. L to R: Hanlon Walsh, Justine Herlihy, Laura Jackson, Nickelle Stoll, Jamie Bullock, Casi (kc) Callaway, Nicole Bridgewater, Cade Kistler. 

Above: Mobile Baykeeper Staff pictured at Bay Awakening. L to R: Hanlon Walsh, Justine Herlihy, Laura Jackson, Nickelle Stoll, Jamie Bullock, Casi (kc) Callaway, Nicole Bridgewater, Cade Kistler. 

The work we do would not be possible without our members. You sustain us through your financial support. 

It enables us to be the watchdog for Mobile Bay, Fish River, Magnolia Springs, Gulf beaches, Fowl River, Dog River, America’s Amazon, or whatever your favorite waterway may be. Your funding gives us the ability to be thorough in our research so that we can be the informed voice on issues and, to honor your support, we work to collaborate to find the best solutions.

Through Bay Awakening and your commitment to sustainable funding for Mobile Baykeeper, we reached just over 31,000 people last year. For 2016, we expect to reach nearly 40,000, speak to close to 5,000 people directly and we will educate more than 2,000 people in our workshops.

Last year, your support specifically allowed us to hire Jamie Bullock (Education & Outreach Coordinator), which led to the finishing touches of SWAMP – the Strategic Watershed Awareness and Monitoring Program. The Program team has presented SWAMP to more than 1500 students this year and fully implemented the program in North Mobile County at Citronelle High School thanks to the financial support of our friends at AM/NS Calvert and the technical expertise of the Mobile Area Education Foundation.

Executive Director Casi (kc) Callaway highlights the work we do to guests at Bay Awakening.

Executive Director Casi (kc) Callaway highlights the work we do to guests at Bay Awakening.

That support led to another grant to move SWAMP into Three Mile Creek Watershed and LeFlore High School, which starts this month. That led to our first large EPA Education grant to implement SWAMP in South Mobile County through Alma Bryant High School.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that we can move into Fairhope with the support of another grant.

What is so amazing about SWAMP is that it came from our membership, from listening to you and your concerns. That’s where the vast majority of our issues enter our world.

You sustain us by bringing the most important issues to our attention. 

Every day, we receive what we call a citizen concern. We get a wide variety of calls on everything from “my neighbor poured paint down the storm drain” or “there’s red clay running in my river.” The one we all know best is we have too much litter in our waterways.

The next question is always - "How do we stop it?" 

Stop littering.

Easy right? No, not exactly.

So with each citizen concern, we develop a solution.

We teach people to realize that when you throw litter out of your car in a parking lot or on a street that appears to be nowhere near a river, it still ends up in a river. Chances are you don’t want to swim in litter or eat fish swimming in litter. So if you understand that your litter ends up in a river, you won’t ever litter again.

SWAMP trains people to understand the big water quality issues, but then digs deeper, teaching them how to monitor water quality, shoreline health and find pollution problems. Once they can do that, they’re trained to seek out and implement solutions. The other huge piece we’re including moving forward is connecting people to our waterways. It is so hard to ignore a river, stream or creek if you’ve played on it or fished in it. We want to engage people and connect them to our rivers and Bay so that they can love our rivers and Bay the way we do.

You sustain us through continued engagement on campaigns.

Another incredible victory we saw in 2016, and I don’t mean Mobile Baykeeper but our community, was with the battle of placing petroleum storage tanks on our riverfront. Collaborating with business leaders, industry, community leaders and citizens, we instituted the strictest ordinance for placing petroleum storage tanks in a port city throughout the entire country.

Board Member and Past President Ray Mayhall encourages guests to become more engaged with Mobile Baykeeper. 

Board Member and Past President Ray Mayhall encourages guests to become more engaged with Mobile Baykeeper. 

You did it. You wrote letters, you made phone calls and spoke up when we asked. Some of you stepped outside of your comfort zone to work with a group you didn’t know you could trust. We’ve developed friendships as well as an open line of communication that can ensure future challenges will be handled much more quickly than before.

Our job isn’t simple. Many of our campaigns don’t seem to ever go away.

Through one of our most successful campaigns, we saw a reduction in sewer spills in Mobile until last year. Last year we saw 7.2 million gallons of sewer released on both sides of the Bay and we’ve already seen over 3 million this year. Now we’re facing more spills, more challenges and working to find new and unique ways to address those spills.

Funding from the BP Oil Disaster is going to be an issue we’ll face for the next several years and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure the environmental restoration money gets spent better than the economic money.

You have sustained us through your financial support, ideas and engagement for the last 19 years. 

Mother Teresa once said, “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones, the ones at home”. I am still so grateful for the day I desperately called my daddy 18 years ago. I had no idea which direction to go and he led me home. He gave me the ability to take care of my home.

I love that Bob Higgins, Founder of Higgins and Associates, says in the video that you can count on Mobile Baykeeper’s consistency. That is my absolute focus. We’ve been consistent in our mission, and as you’ve asked us to do more, we’ve grown to meet the challenges that keep coming forward.

We are consistent because our members are consistent. We tell you what we need and you deliver. You answered the call to help and we need you again. We need you, your friends, your families, and your colleagues because without you, we can’t do this work. We need you to take care of your home and be an advocate to grow our membership and grow your engagement with Mobile Baykeeper.

Five years ago when we hosted our first Bay Awakening, we had no idea what it would be like, how it would work, if it would work, but what we have realized is that the more you know about our work, the more connected you are, the more we can accomplish because we’re working together.

Thank you so much for your sustaining support.

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