HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas — Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, along with mayors from the central Texas communities of Belton, Copperas Cove, Gatesville, Harker Heights, Killeen, Lampasas and Salado, and a council member from Nolanville gathered here at Carl Levin Park to proclaim April as Sustainable Environment Month and also present the Cen-Tex Environmental Ambassador Awards April 14.
“On behalf of the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities… we encourage Central Texans to do their part to promote beautification, conservation, pollution prevention and recycling within their communities, homes, schools and workplaces,” Foster said. “This will help us to achieve positive impacts from sustaining the mission, that includes all of you, to enhancing the well-being of our youth, Soldiers, our military families and all residents of Central Texas both on Fort Hood and in the larger Central Texas community.”
Foster and Harker Heights Mayor Spencer H. Smith hosted the event to celebrate youth, organizations and individuals from each of the partner communities.
“It takes these dedicated individuals, whether it is through their career or volunteering, to make the difference,” Smith said.
Recipients included Manuel Zapata from Belton; Nathan Garner from Copperas Cove; Maj. Kandice Hines from Fort Hood; Joe Campbell from Gatesville; Angie Wilson from Harker Heights; Yalondra Valderrama-Santana from Killeen; Lampasas Community Garden; Colleen Smith-Fey and Marlene Fey from Nolanville; and Colleen Brooks from Salado.
Many notable accomplishments were recognized, including Garner who was the youngest recipient.
In the past year and at 9-years- old, Garner has participated in every trash pickup held, partnered with Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful to host the second annual Shred Day and organized a recycled crayon and used marker drive in all Copperas Cove Independent School District schools.
He also recently won $1,000 for Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful from Hillshire Farms and Fort Hood Thrift Shop, which he will use to implement an Adopt-A-Road and Spot Program.
Since 2013, Hines has been an advocate for environmental stewardship and sustainability from serving as her unit’s Environmental Compliance Officer to volunteering for countless community events, including her current assignment with the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
Her efforts include: educating thousands of youth at Earth Day, America Recycles Day, FRIENDS Leadership and Geographic Information Systems Day school events and engaging Central Texans at public events like Monarch Fest, One Community One Day and Earth Fest and Month of the Military Child.
“I feel blessed and it is very humbling to be recognized, but personally, it is never about recognition,” Hines said. “My Soldiers and I are committed to the process of environmental sustainability. We are the change and it starts with us here and now. We have to press the green button on sustainability, while balancing the mission.”
Hines encouraged her peers, leaders and Soldiers to commit to servant leadership and mentor, advocate and collaborate with the community.
“As servant leaders, we should want to get involved throughout the community,” she said. “It is also important that we walk our talk. We can’t expect our Soldiers to do something we aren’t willing to do ourselves. This is stewardship leading by example.”
During the recognition, awardees were presented with a tree cookie-a cross section of a tree and a certificate of special congressional recognition from Congressman John Carter.
“This is an indication of the quality diversity of people that we have, here, serving in Central Texas,” Smith said. “These individuals serve as a reminder to our responsibility as government leaders, managers and residents to remain committed to sustainability.
Following the awards presentation, Foster, the mayors and a council member gathered at the park’s pocket prairie to sign a proclamation declaring April as Sustainable Environment Month and participated in a seed-throwing ceremony.
Smith challenged communities to sign the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and commit to creating habitat for monarchs and pollinators.
“I am proud to have signed the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge for the second year in a row. I encourage all the mayors here today to do the same,” he said. “One of our efforts is to build more butterfly waystations.
“Today, with your help, we will be expanding our pocket prairie by adding native seeds,” he added. “This prairie has already brought new diverse species to this park.”
During the ceremony, the awardees and mayors were also gifted a Blackland Prairie seed mix to spread in their communities.
“A passion for the environment and sustainability is the reason partnerships such as Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership works,” Smith said. “Over the years, we have seen a stronger partnership throughout the counties, and I look forward to seeing it grow.”