James River Advisory Council recognizes ‘Stewards of the River’

May 9, 2019

Photos available on Flickr

Four individuals and a Richmond nonprofit organization have been recognized as the 2019 James River Advisory Council’s Stewards of the River.

Established in 2006, the annual awards go to people or groups who’ve made measurable, positive impacts to the James River and surrounding communities. The awards were presented during JRAC’s spring meeting at the Appomattox Regional Library in Hopewell.

Guardian Award
Todd Janeski
Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program, VCU Rice Rivers Center

Since 2013, Janeski has facilitated the collection of waste oyster shells from restaurants and returned them to the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay to help restore wild oyster populations, improve water quality and provide new fish habitat. The program is a public-private and nonprofit collaborative effort that collects from 60 restaurants and 30 public drop-off locations across Virginia. Restoring the oyster population provides multiple environmental and commercial benefits. In 2017 alone, Janeski and a crew of 200 volunteers collected about 125,000 pounds of shell.

Education Award
Elysa Mills
Master Captain and Educator, James River Association

Mills has worked to support environmental education at the Ecology School at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. She has been an advocate for initiatives that align with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Connecting People with Nature efforts. Her contribution extends throughout the James River watershed as the Ecology School attracts thousands of urban, suburban and rural elementary to high schools students annually. Her passion is to connect citizens of all ages to their local waterways by fostering an appreciation for the power and beauty of the natural world, allowing for hands-on investigations of the James River and encouraging good stewardship.  

Communication Award
Fred Wollenberg
Director of Design and Production, Bergman Group

Wollenberg’s designs for the annual James River Days brochure have led to increased public awareness of the James River and the James River Advisory Council. His unwavering assistance with James River Days has helped build awareness of opportunities that better connect the community to the river. His insight has allowed the brochure to expand and meet JRAC’s communication needs. Whether by changing the design to be more attractive, making the content more digestible or making the brochure mobile-friendly, Wollenberg displays his commitment to this project year after year and ensures the brochure is accurate and vibrant. 

Community Partnership Award
Keep Virginia Cozy
Keep Virginia Cozy partners with organizations in the James River watershed to promote cleanups, trail work and invasive species removal while encouraging community groups to get out and enjoy what the James has to offer. The mission of Keep Virginia Cozy is to ensure a clean and healthy Virginia for generations to come. Keep Virginia Cozy and JRAC share a goal of keeping rivers free from litter, toxins and debris to promote the health and growth of native wildlife and freshwater species. Since its inception, Keep Virginia Cozy has removed over 2,000 pounds of litter from parks, trails and waterways including the James River.

Historical Values Award
LaTika Lee
Interested Citizen and Coordinator, Diversity on the River – Forgotten History Lecture Series
Lee has served on JRAC’s Diversity Committee for over a decade and has coordinated presentations that explore the history of the James River. Her research provides context to the river-related history of diverse populations. Lee seeks to expand and educate JRAC’s audience. She has coordinated lectures such as, “Diamonds, Education, Emancipation and Race: The Family of Silas Omohundro,” “Down by The Riverside: African American Heritage on America’s Rivers,” “The Story of Henry ‘Box’ Brown,” “The Secret Life of Lucy Bosman and Murder on Second Street: The Jackson Ward Murders” and “The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom will be Theirs by the Sword.” 

The James River Advisory Council’s mission is to promote and protect the James River as one of Central Virginia’s greatest assets and one of America’s unique rivers. JRAC brings people from throughout the region to a common table where representatives from local, state and federal government, businesses and industry, community organizations and citizens share ideas and talk objectively and constructively about river issues and education.