Each spring SB CAN holds its annual North County Awards Dinner, honoring “unsung heroes” from the Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Santa Maria Valleys. The Santa Barbara Council on Research and Education (SB CORE) will co-host this year’s dinner in Santa Maria on April 27.

Major sponsors include The Fund for Santa Barbara, philanthropist Sara Miller McCune and the Sierra Club. Our guest speaker this year is the wonderfully witty and irreverent Shane Stark, retired Santa Barbara County counsel.

Please join us in honoring the following individuals and organizations for their outstanding contributions to the community:

John Buttny, Santa Ynez. This year’s Social Justice Award for promoting tolerance, respect and compassion for all people in our community will go to John for his work in helping to develop the county’s 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness — which includes people who have been homeless for a year or more due to physical disabilities, mental health or substance abuse. From 1985 to 2004, John also served as staff executive to the 3rd District Supervisors Bill Wallace and Gail Marshall, helping organize and lead hundreds of community meetings to work on critical social justice, environmental and land-use issues.

Eric Cardenas / Central Coast Environmental Health Project (CCEHP), Santa Maria. As CCEHP director, Eric will be receiving our Working Families Award for providing education to improve health conditions at work and in the home. CCEHP raises awareness about health risks posed by pesticide exposure and works to decrease our reliance on pesticides. The project is tailored to the needs and concerns of farmworkers and their families, and other community members who work, go to school or live near farming operations. Eric helped draft and pass statewide legislation addressing pesticide use near schools.

Connie Geiger, Lompoc. This year our Giving Back to the Community Award goes to Connie for her selfless hours of community service. As a member of the Sierra Club, Connie has been leading hikes into Los Padres National Forest and state parks for the last 16 years. She also leads environmental cleanups along Highway 1, and regularly participates in the California Coastal Beach Cleanups at Surf Beach. She is active in the Lompoc Valley Botanical and Horticultural Society, California Native Plant Society, National Audubon Society, Lompoc Library and Lompoc Animal Shelter.

The Guadalupe Dunes Center. Our Environmental Protection & Sustainability Award goes to the Dunes Center for its work in educating the community about the need to protect and preserve one of the wondrous natural resources in our community. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex is a National Natural Landmark, with more than 22,000 acres of one of the largest coastal dune ecosystems on earth. With more than 1,000 known species of birds, plants and animals, and some of the highest dunes on the West Coast, it is a place of rare beauty and significance.

Joan Leon, Santa Maria. Joan is receiving our Looking Forward Award for strong leadership and vision in community building, civic engagement, and improving the quality of life in our community. She is well known for her “Looking Forward” columns, offering practical advice and solutions to local issues. As founder and chairwoman of the Santa Maria Community Coalition, she regularly attends and testifies at Santa Maria City Council meetings. Joan served two years on the county Grand Jury, and twice was elected president of the League of Women Voters of Santa Maria Valley.

Please join SB CAN for our annual North County Awards Dinner at 5 p.m. April 27 at Atria Maria del Sol, 1405 E. Main St., Santa Maria. Tickets are $40 per person. To reserve your seat, call 805.722.5094.

Deborah Brasket is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network  (SB CAN). Click here to e-mail her or call 805.722.5094. This commentary originally appeared in the Santa Maria Times.