If you’re a fan of the Alliance, you probably know by now that every year we celebrate the Chesapeake at our largest annual fundraiser, the Taste. The event features an evening of local food, beverages, live music, silent auctions, raffles, and, last but certainly not least, award presentations. This August and September, we’re excited to once again bring the Taste to three beautiful venues in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland to celebrate with all who partner with the Alliance to bring clean water back to our Chesapeake communities. Tickets go on sale June 21st, so save the date of your choice and be ready to grab your tickets in a few weeks.

One of our favorite parts of this exciting event is honoring individuals who have gone above and beyond to help improve the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In each of our four regions of Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, we present a Watershed Champion Award, and we choose one individual from across the watershed to receive our Fran Flanigan Environmental Leadership Award for their leadership and dedication to cleaner rivers and streams.

Please join us below to learn more about the six recipients who will be recognized at this year’s Taste events, and consider visiting our Taste page to share a congratulatory message with our award winners.

Congratulate our Taste Winners now!

Meet our 2023 Watershed Champion and Fran Flanigan Award Winners

The Watershed Champion and Fran Flanigan Awards are special recognition awards for leadership and dedication to cleaner rivers and streams of the Chesapeake Bay, given each year at Taste events. The following awardees have thoughtfully considered how to push the boundaries between science, the environment, and art, and are leaders to be recognized for their exemplary stewardship and profound impacts on the Bay.

Virginia Watershed Champions: Tim Harper and Matt Lively

Two people posing for a picture outdoors

Tim Harper (left) and Matt Lively (right)

With experience in Finance, Found Object Kinetic Sculpture, Multimedia Installations, Public Art, and Graphic Design, Tim Harper has a keen interest in multidisciplinary projects that occupy the space between science and art. His work has been shown throughout the mid-atlantic, and he has taught kinetic sculpture to children and adults.

A recipient of the 2012 Theresa Pollak Award for Excellence in the Arts, Matt Lively is a painter, sculptor, film producer, and muralist who has work in collections throughout the world. Matt has taught at VCU, The University of Richmond, The Visual Art Center in Richmond, and The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Studio School.

A dimensional mural entitled “Illuminated” done by Matt and Tim for Dominion Energy.

Matt Lively and Tim Harper began collaborating in early 2013 and quickly found that their strengths as artists were complimentary. Their combined installation work includes a rainwater harvesting system sculpture at Binford Middle School, designed with middle school students and the Alliance; pylon murals at Scott’s View and 3200 W. Broad residential communities; an illuminated dimensional mural highlighting Dominion Energy’s renewable energy assets; a forthcoming Greening Greater Fulton sculpture designed with the Alliance and community partners; and a forthcoming installation with Bon Secours celebrating the historical significance of their Westhampton property in Richmond.

Pennsylvania Watershed Champion: Jodi Sulpizio

Jodi Sulpizio is a Natural Resources Educator for Penn State Extension in York County, and coordinates the Master Watershed Steward Program and the Spongy Moth Program in York. Jodi teaches residents about stormwater, drinking water safety, and watershed management. As the Master Watershed Steward Coordinator, she supervises over 80 volunteers who are actively educating York County citizens about water resources and are implementing best management projects. Formerly, she was a Naturalist for the York County Parks and Manheim Township Parks.

Jodi is passionate about empowering both citizens and volunteers to protect our natural resources. She is now training the eighth class of Master Watershed Stewards in York County. Since 2016, Master Watershed Stewards in York have volunteered over 20,000 hours and have educated over 34,000 people. Together, they have planned and completed numerous, successful watershed projects throughout the county. Jodi particularly enjoys planting riparian buffers and rain gardens, coordinating the Street 2 Creek storm drain art project, and educating youth. She looks forward to continued endeavors to help make streams and rivers cleaner for both our communities and the Chesapeake Bay.

Maryland Watershed Champion: Jodi Rose

Jodi Rose, Executive Director of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Biochemistry and worked in the environmental consulting field for 15 years, managing soil and groundwater remediation projects and later running her own consulting firm. As a volunteer in her Catholic parish, she spearheaded several environmental and social justice programs that engaged fellow parishioners to live out their faith in action.

It was during this time that Jodi decided to shift into nonprofits to work at the intersection of faith and the environment. She became the Executive Director of IPC in 2013, and since then, has grown the team from a staff of one to ten employees, increased its revenues 10-fold, and the organization’s network now encompasses hundreds of congregations.

DC Watershed Champion: Julie Lawson

Julie Patton Lawson is a talented connector and communicator, coalition builder, entrepreneurial advocate, marketing professional, and project manager. She is a respected leader in engaging diverse communities in the restoration of the Bay. Julie has developed multiple local, state, and national coalitions to pass cutting-edge legislation and programs to protect neighborhoods and waterways, from the Anacostia River to the oceans. Her work crosses sectors of environmental and social justice, education, public health, and economic development.

Julie currently serves as the coordinator for education and workforce development strategy for the DC Department of Energy and Environment, with a special focus on supporting environmental education and opportunities at Anacostia High School and the University of the District of Columbia. Previously Julie served on the cabinet of Mayor Muriel Bowser, as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of the Clean City. She was also the Founding Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland, a nonprofit organization working to reduce trash pollution through policy and behavior change.

She also serves as Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the Chesapeake Bay Program, contributing on behalf of public stakeholders. Serving on several boards and committees informing education policy, Julie is passionate about restoring the Anacostia River so that it can be a full recreational, economic, and natural resource for all Washingtonians to enjoy.

Fran Flanigan Award: Penny Gross

Longtime Mason District Supervisor, and 27-year Board of Supervisors veteran, Penny Gross, has been awarded the Fran Flanigan Award this year. First elected in 1995 to represent the Mason District, she’s been a long-time advocate of expanding public transportation, affordable housing, and diversity in the county.

When she announced her decision not to run for reelection in 2022, Board Chair Jeff McKay praised Gross for being a “leader” and leaving a lasting legacy. The board is so grateful for the legacy Gross built for others and the leadership attributes and respect she brought to the table.

“I’m proud and grateful to have played a role in ensuring these opportunities for our diverse community, and I look forward to the continuing success of Fairfax County and the region.” – Penny Gross

Gross also writes a weekly column in the Falls Church News Press, hosts the monthly television show, Mason Matters, and is a founding member of Friends of Mason District Park. Her work has been incredibly impactful in the District, and beyond, and the Alliance is proud to honor Gross with the Fran Flanigan Award.

Thank you to our 2023 Taste Award winners for their dedication to our amazing watershed. We look forward to celebrating their efforts around the watershed with you in August and September. Remember to visit our Taste page to learn more about the events and congratulate our awardees. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for June 21st, when tickets go on sale!