Palo Alto celebrates 2012 Tall Tree Awards

Honorees recognized at annual dinner Wednesday night

Alison Cormack, John Barton, the Foundation for a College Education and Whole Foods Market were recognized as Palo Alto's 2012 Tall Tree Award recipients during an awards dinner Wednesday night, April 11, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

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.

Alison Cormack accepted the award for outstanding citizen for her successful leadership of the $76 million library bond measure campaign in 2008. She was also recognized for her current effort to raise $4 million in private funds to furnish the city's new and renovated libraries ($3.8 million has been raised for furnishings so far).

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.

Barton accepted his Tall Tree Award for outstanding professional for his 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.

Barton 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 subsidizes 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.

Anna Warring, executive director for the Foundation for a College Education, accepted the Tall Tree Award on behalf of the nonprofit. The organization was honored for its work helping East Palo Alto-area students of color from high school through college with tutoring and other support.

Foundation for a College Education works with 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.

East Palo Alto Mayor Laura Martinez, who went to Whittier College, is a graduate of the foundation's program.

Mike Folan, general manager of Whole Foods Market, accepted the Tall Tree Award for outstanding business for the company's extensive community programs including Nickels for Nonprofits, a program that 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 supporter of the Downtown Streets Team, a nonprofit organization devoted to assisting the homeless and helps many nonprofits by donating catering for events.

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Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm

It's time to concede that the Tall Tree Awards are a tired concept and that's we've run out of people to honor. How about we stop doing these awards annually and instead look for a Tall Tree honoree once a decade?

Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Didn't John Barton support high speed rail...then he suddenly realized that it meant a Berlin Wall through Palo Alto...then he started a completely bizarre campaign to put it through an underground tunnel...trying to bury his mistake. How can Barton be honored by Palo Alto?

Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2012 at 3:12 pm

There's something about being on-line that invites gripe-y remarks, I suppose. Too many gripes and not enough thank-yous. Let's acknowledge the good things these people and organizations did. Cheers to everyone honored and thank you for your good works and great intentions. It's a significant feat to actualize anything of value, no matter how small. Not everyone will agree but still savor the moment.

Like this comment
Posted by John,
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I agree with your comment . However, I think it is the anonymity that brings on the sarcastic remarks.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Given Whole Foods union busting tactics, this award seems odd.

Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:00 pm

I met Alison Cormack outside the old Mitchell Park Library when she was soliciting funds for the successful campaign to pass the bond measure. She was such a charming and sincere person that she made a big impression on me.

I am eagerly awaiting the new Mitchell Park library, my neighborhood library and thank Alison for all her hard work.

She richly deserves a Tall Tree award!

Like this comment
Posted by Kimberly Hurt-Pereira
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Way to go Whole Foods!! Great place to work, great people to work with, great customers. You can not help but love our little store. Keep up the good work WFM.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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