Filed Under:  Business, Environmental, Local, National

White House honors two of Louisiana’s ‘Champions of Change’

25th April 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Tabachnik
Contributing Writer

On April 17, the White House honored two Louisiana community leaders for their commitment to preparing communities for the consequences of climate change.

Patrick Barnes and Rebecca Templeton were two among a group of 12 individuals chosen to be part of the White House’s Champions of Change initiative. Champions-of-Change

The initiative last week honored 12 citizens, businesses and community leaders from around the country who work tirelessly to build community resilience by preparing for increasingly extreme weather and other costly climate-related impacts.

Barnes is a professional geologist and president of the Gulf Coast’s largest African American-owned environmental consulting firm, BFA Environmental. Some of his projects include water resource consulting and designing and managing several large-scale coastal resiliency projects. Through his work with coastal resiliency projects he realized there was a lack of African-American men and women receiving jobs from the large-scale contracts in the field, so he established Limitless Vistas, Inc, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to give poor and minority communities’ access to the work.

“There is a huge segment of the population not connected to job opportunities that will become available in the region,” Barnes said. “We need to get these youth trained.”

Through his connections at BFA Environmental, Barnes has access to the scientists and engineers needed to train the youth. What’s unique about BFA and Limitless, Barnes said, is the interrelationship between the two. The urgency to train these children now is important because of the employment potential in the near future.

“With the BP oil spill, there will be about 30,000 to 60,000 environmental jobs in the next 10 to 15 years,” Barnes said. “And most of these jobs will be entry level.”

Rebecca Templeton is the executive director of Bayou Grace Community Services, a locally-based nonprofit in Terrebonne Parish, La. Her goal has been to bring Gulf Louisiana communities together to discuss environmental issues from the BP oil disaster through large dinners that her organization coordinates. Bayou Grace also mobilizes and engages local and national residents to combat Louisiana coastal land loss and promote the restoration of the coast, on behalf of communities that depend on a healthy environment.

Templeton stressed that the dinners consist of a number of positive roles.

“First of all, they feed people in the community,” Templeton said. “But they are also an opportunity for local people in the community to get to know decision makers in the region.

“It’s a way to get feedback to these decision makers.”

According to the White House, the Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, the White House features a group of Ameri­cans – individuals, businesses and organizations–who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Templeton and Barnes were both deeply appreciative of the recognition from Washington and indicated that some of their favorite moments in the capital consisted of dialogue with the other Champions of Change.

“It was inspiring and energizing to hear about the great work others are doing,” Templeton said. “It was very motivating to hear that we’re on the right track.”
Barnes noted how the exchanging of ideas between the other 11 recipients was extremely useful for him.

“I was able to identify areas in our program and plug the gap with something that others are doing,” Barnes said. “I also got some great contacts and look forward to doing more with that resource.”

This article originally published in the April 22, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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