The Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN) will honor five individuals and one organization for their outstanding contributions to the community during the North County “Looking Forward” Awards Dinner on Sunday at the Santa Maria Inn, 801 S. Broadway in Santa Maria.

Judge Rogelio Flores

Judge Rogelio Flores

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rogelio Flores; Bill Libbon, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Maria Valley; Mary Ellen “Marell” Brooks; Jan Martinez; Dan Mally; and the Lompoc Co-op Development Project will be honored during the event that starts at 5 p.m.

Flores will receive the Social Justice Award for his exemplary work, including the Substance Abuse Treatment Court, the High-Risk DUI calendar, the Veterans Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and the domestic violence review calendar.

Flores spent 12 years presiding over the drug court, a program he helped create. He offered hope to offenders with drug, alcohol and mental health problems by giving them a chance to get clean through an 18-month program as an alternative to serving jail time. More than 1,000 people have graduated from the drug court.

Libbon will receive the Working Families Award. People who know him describe him as compassionate and dedicated. For 39 years he has helped improve the lives of more than 40,000 youths through the Boys & Girls Club that has two locations in Santa Maria and one in Guadalupe.

Brooks will receive the Giving Back to the Community Award. She has been active in the community, serving on the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and organizing an annual American Association of University Women one-day conference for middle school girls.

Brooks has also served on the Citizens Planning Association, County Commission for Women, Vandenberg Village Library support group and the Women’s Literary Festival of Santa Barbara. She was recently elected president of the Lompoc Valley Democratic Club and she writes columns for the Lompoc Record.

Martinez and Mally will receive the Environmental Protection and Sustainability Award. They have turned four weed-filled empty lots into pocket parks in downtown Lompoc and are working on a fifth. They do all the work themselves, have no support group, spend their own money, and use mostly recycled material to create gardens of peace and beauty.

The Lompoc Co-op Development Project will receive the “Looking Forward” Award for giving the Lompoc community a vision and hope for the future. Members of a local church brought together community leaders and professionals of different faiths who share the same values and desires for economic renewal to help their economically depressed community.

Bill Libbon

Bill Libbon

Their first goal has just been realized — launching the Green Broom Brigade, a worker-owned green cleaning firm. A second co-op business enterprise will be studied later this year.

Through the development of worker-owned cooperative businesses, the project seeks to create sustainable jobs and promote life-changing opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents in Lompoc. Worker cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by the workers. They follow a well established, proven business structure with examples throughout the United States and the world.

The event’s guest speaker, Karen Evangelista of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts and Education Center, will speak on “Empowering our Community through Cultural Traditions and the Arts.”

The dinner is open to the public. Cost is $50 per person. Click here for reservations or for more information, or call 805.563.0463.

— Jeanne Sparks is communications manager for the Santa Barbara County Action Network.