Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 17, 2012

Tall Tree honorees announced

Awards recognize citizens, organizations for community work

Palo Alto's 2012 Tall Tree awards will recognize Alison Cormack, John Barton, Whole Foods Market and the Foundation for a College Education in April.

The awards, which are co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly, honor community service and outstanding civic contributions in four categories: citizen volunteer, professional business person, business and nonprofit organization.

The outstanding citizen award recognizes Cormack's successful leadership of the $76 million library bond measure campaign in 2008 and the current, nearly completed effort to raise $4 million in private funds to furnish the city's new and renovated libraries.

Cormack and other library supporters achieved a near-miracle by passing the bond measure with a 69.5 percent margin in spite of the global economic collapse just weeks before the November election.

When the new Mitchell Park library opens later this year, it will be the first major new civic building constructed in Palo Alto in decades.

The Palo Alto Library Foundation announced in December that it had raised $3.6 million in donations for furnishings— 90 percent of its goal. The funds will be used to provide furniture, new computers and other technology, and thousands of new books and electronic materials at Mitchell Park, the renovated Main Library and the recently renovated Downtown Library.

Barton is being honored with the Tall Tree for outstanding professional due to his extensive contributions to the community as an architect and business person.

He is director of Stanford University's Architectural Design Program and operates his own architectural firm.

He was a founder of the Community Working Group, the organization that proposed and built the Opportunity Center, which provides services to the homeless and people in transition and subsidized housing for individuals and families. He was instrumental in the approval of the 49-unit very-low-income housing development now under construction at Alma Street and Homer Avenue.

Barton served on the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education from 1997 to 2005, the Palo Alto City Council from 2006 to 2010, was president of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and participated in numerous community commissions and working groups.

Whole Foods Market won the Tall Tree Award for outstanding business for providing downtown Palo Alto with a vibrant market at a time when other markets had closed and for its extensive support of community events and activities.

Its community programs include Nickels for Nonprofits, which raises around $9,600 each year, and Community 5 Percent Days, during which 5 percent of the day's net sales go to nonprofits, raising around $24,000 each year. Whole Foods has been a strong supporter of the Downtown Streets Team, a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting the homeless that itself was awarded a Tall Tree in 2010, and helps many nonprofits by donating catering for events.

Nonprofit honoree Foundation for a College Education helps East Palo Alto-area students of color from high school through college with tutoring and other support. It works with the students and their parents to identify colleges that would be a good fit, prepare for major events such as the SAT, navigate the application process, attain financial aid and scholarships, and keep on track to graduate. Many of the students in the program attend Palo Alto high schools as part of the Voluntary Transfer Program.

Of the 122 students who have graduated from Foundation for a College Education's high school program since 1999, 89 percent have graduated from college or are on track to graduate. East Palo Alto Mayor Laura Martinez, who went to Whittier College, is a graduate of the foundation's program.

— Eric Van Susteren

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