Volunteer Fran Codispoti, early childhood education leader Sharon Keplinger, the Stanford Federal Credit Union and nonprofit organization Acterra will be recognized with 2015 Tall Tree Awards for their outstanding civic service to the Palo Alto community.
The awards, which are sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly, acknowledge the civic accomplishments of a citizen volunteer, professional/business person, business and nonprofit organization. All of the Tall Tree Award recipients will be honored at a dinner on April 21 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The winners were chosen by a committee of past Tall Tree recipients.
Codispoti was selected as "Outstanding Citizen Volunteer" for her commitment to improving the lives of people young and old. Codispoti was instrumental in raising funds for facilities at Gunn High School, which her children attended. The list of organizations she has participated in is long: Foundation for a College Education (where she currently serves as an advisory board member), Bay Area Cancer Connections (she served as board president and chair of the organization's signature galas and is currently on the development committee), Stanford Cancer Council, Avenidas Senior Center and more.
"Energetic, compassionate, dedicated and skilled, (Fran) seizes opportunities to make her community a better place by doing the hard word that so many avoid," a letter nominating her for the award stated.
Codispoti's work with Avenidas started in 1998, when she joined the board of directors. She also held many other titles at Avenidas and continues to be involved with the organization as a member of the advisory council and four-person search committee tasked with selecting the organization's next president.
Keplinger will receive the award for "Outstanding Professional/Business Person" for the depth and breadth of her work with Palo Alto children and their families, through which she has advocated for the importance of early learning.
Nominating letters praised Keplinger for being an educator committed to creating a strong community for families, as well as dedicated to the professional development of early childhood educators.
Keplinger's 20-plus-year career includes working as PreK principal with the Palo Alto Unified School District. Her responsibilites include overseeing PAUSD's early education programs, including Springboard to Kindergarten, Young Fives, PreSchool Family and Transitional Kindergarten, as well as the special-education programs offered by the district to preschool children. She also served on the Palo Alto Advisory Committee on Early Care and Education (PAAC-ECE) and on the board of The Mothers Symposium.
"She is an expert in child development, and this expertise has benefited thousands of children and families in our community. She is also a fabulous mentor to her teachers and works tirelessly to provide the highest quality early education environments for all children in Palo Alto," a nominating letter stated.
The Tall Tree Award for "Outstanding Business" will be given to Stanford Federal Credit Union (SFCU), which has demonstrated a continued commitment to Palo Alto and to improving the lives of those in the city.
The credit union has been a part of the community for more than 50 years, and its employees serve Palo Alto through its sponsorships and volunteerism. In 2014, the credit union started a free school backpack program, providing 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to children of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto families.
The credit union has also provided support to Stanford University, Stanford Hospital, Lucile Packard Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, the Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run, the city's annual Summer Festival & Chili Cook Off, Cogswell Concerts, the annual National Day of Civic Hacking & the Palo Alto Apps challenge, the annual Holiday Tree Lighting, the Senior New Year's Eve Champagne Brunch, the United Nations Association Film Festival and more.
"The SFCU shares our passion for strengthening community through community events, recognizing that community events bring people together to create a wonderful 'sense of place' in Palo Alto, helping people make meaningful connections with the city that they live in, work in and visit," a nominating letter stated.
Acterra will receive the Tall Tree award as "Outstanding Nonprofit." The Palo Alto-based environmental nonprofit has been promoting a healthy natural environment in Silicon Valley since 1970. For decades, Acterra has implemented successful programs aimed at helping communities, businesses and individuals to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as enabling residents to participate in hands-on projects.
The organization has engaged the service of more than 8,500 volunteers half of them youth who work on land stewardship projects at 18 natural sites across seven watersheds, including the Pearson-Arastradero Preserve stewardship project. Acterra also works at Foothills Park and on San Francisquito Creek in Palo Alto.
In 2008, Acterra launched the Green@Home program in Palo Alto to staff and train volunteers to help residents in 11 surrounding cities take action to combat global warming and reduce energy use by making their homes more energy efficient. The organization also sponsors the Business Environmental Awards program, which has honored more than 170 Bay Area companies and organizations for their leadership in sustainability.
"What is also noteworthy about Acterra is their ability to quickly adapt their programs and services to quickly respond to the emerging needs of the community and to the social problems and challenges of Palo Alto. Their very dynamic service philosophy is truly unique and praiseworthy," a nominating letter stated.
Tickets to the Tall Tree Awards are available at paloaltochamber.com. The Tall Tree Awards dinner is the chamber's major fundraiser for the year.