Hidden Heroine Nominations are Open for the 2018 Women and the Environment Symposium

Written by: Kim Buchholz

It’s that time of year. The autumn colors are in full effect, bustling fall days turn into brisk, cozy nights and Hidden Heroine nominations for the 2018 Women and the Environment Symposium (February 19 – March 1) are filling our inboxes! We look forward to this time of year because not only do we have the opportunity to learn all about amazing women doing under-recognized and under-appreciated work towards bettering the environment in our local West Michigan community, but we also get to read the inspiring comments from the nominators.

For the past 6 years, Women and the Environment Symposia have honored “Hidden Heroines;” women who are making environmental impacts, inspiring others, creating legacies, educating community members, and empowering others to work for environmental justice. Environmental advocacy and activism is a dedication that deserves recognition, and WMEAC is pleased to honor our local, hard-working Hidden Heroines.

The Women and Environment Symposium is a multi-day event that delivers inspirational and educational environmental opportunities at a variety of Grand Rapids locales, raises awareness towards actionable environmental issues, brings together a wide-ranging network of women, and provides connections and resources for civic engagement.  Throughout the symposium, anticipation builds as the announcement of the Hidden Heroines awards nears! The 2018 featured keynote speaking is Peggy Shepard from We Act for Environmental Justice in Harlem, New York City. With everyone gathered together for the keynote speech, three Hidden Heroines are announced and awarded!

The Hidden Heroine awards are divided into three categories, in appreciation for the diverse and wide-spanning efforts of environmental activism. Each person who nominates a Hidden Heroine nominee has the opportunity to select one of three categories:

Women of Hope:

The Women of Hope Award honors a foreword-looking, up-and-coming environmental advocate who represents hope for environmental activism and an equitable society. This Woman of Hope also provides environmental engagement through her fresh voice and diverse perspective to the ongoing efforts to improve the environment.

Women of Inspiration:

The Women of Inspiration Award honors a woman at the forefront of the current environmental movement. As a contemporary environmental leader, the Woman of Inspiration also brings seasoned environmental experience and motivation to those around her, embodying inspiration through environmental advocacy and justice efforts.

Women of Vision:

The Women of Vision Award honors a woman who is a veteran in environmental activism. Through her hard work, determination, diverse experience, and leadership, the Woman of Vision has built a wide-spanning legacy of environmental advocacy, greatly impacting the conditions of neighborhoods and communities throughout West Michigan. As life-long environmental front-runners, this award is a tribute to visionaries with careers deeply rooted in environmental justice.


A conscientious planning committee comprised of educators, activists, students, business owners, and community members organizes each Women and Environment Symposium. This committee is also tasked with the challenge of reviewing nominations and selecting awardees. In addition to a framed certificate, Hidden Heroine awardees will receive a unique gift package featuring local goods.

Some of the judging criteria for nominations include community involvement, accomplishments from leadership, working towards diversity in the environmental movement, and impacts from environmental advocacy work. Each nomination form includes space for descriptions of Hidden Heroines; so if you are inspired to honor a woman you know, please don’t be shy in your description! The planning committee relies solely on the descriptions provided by nominees when deliberating.

The Hidden Heroine awards are a great opportunity for many women working endless hours for the betterment of our environment, healthy communities, and a beautiful, safe,inclusive West Michigan to receive recognition for this work. The call for nominations is now open, but will close on January 26. Please nominate each and every woman you know deserving of this award. We look forward to meeting her!

Information about the 2018 Women and the Environment Symposium and nomination forms can be located here: https://wmeac.org/women-and-the-environment/

2017 Hidden Heroine Award Winners.


For more information on the 2017 Hidden Heroine awards from Grand Rapids Business Journal: http://www.grbj.com/articles/87495-nonprofit-names-hidden-heroines

Through these woman-initiated environmental justice efforts, the social equity of West Michigan continues to improve, offering inclusive and accessible living conditions, including, but not limited to, healthy homes, clean air, and clean water. We cannot congratulate enough the previous year’s Hidden Heroine awardees:


  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Hope: Jenny Bongiorno
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Inspiration: Sarah Chartier
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Vision: Jessie Schultze


  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Hope: Lisa Butler
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Inspiration: Alison Sutter
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Vision: Sister Alice Wittenbach


  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Hope: Autumn Sands
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Inspiration: Tammy Ayers
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Vision: Ginny Wanty


  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Future: Katie Fahey
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Present: Christine Smith
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Past: Kym Spring


  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Future: Danielle Ostanfinski
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Present: Gail Greco-Bierio
  • Hidden Heroine Woman of the Past: Kathy Evans


“Symposium Environmental Leader Honorees”

  • Mary Jane Dockeray
  • Deb Steketee
  • Julie Stoneman
  • Marta Swain
  • Kathy Evans
  • Lisa Locke
  • Alison Swan
  • April Scholtz
  • Jan O’Connell
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