Since the Sierra Club's founding by John Muir in 1892, the organization has promoted environmental conservation, as well as a love and appreciation of the outdoors. The local Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club is one of the nation's largest, with 33,000 members.
It's the wealth of the Palo Alto-based chapter's volunteers that James Eggers, hired last November as the local chapter's director, strongly values about the nonprofit group.
"One of the things that I most like about the Sierra Club is that it is very much a grassroots organization. Volunteers do most of the work. As the director of the chapter, my most important role is to assist the volunteers ... and to bring the best management to the chapter so that our volunteers can do more and better work," Eggers said.
Eggers himself joined the Sierra Club as a volunteer and became an active member for more than 30 years, assisting with conservation education. All this time as a volunteer gave him a deep understanding of what the Sierra Club does and built the foundation for his new role, he said.
When selecting a new director, the chapter chose Eggers for his experience, as well as his ideas of where to take the chapter, according to a statement announcing his hiring.
He has worked with nonprofits and government agencies in 20 countries on six continents, covering 50 different languages. He has designed, managed and evaluated scores of conservation and education programs and has developed thousands of professionals and activists, ranging from classroom teachers to government agency staff, according to the announcement.
Among his work experiences, he's served as assistant director of the Staten Island Zoological Society and taught people with special needs and English-language learners. His connection with the environment was nurtured further back, in childhood.
"I grew up in a family that was always camping, hiking and working for environmental conservation," Eggers said. "I knew the Sierra Club was one of the best organizations for protecting the environment."
Dressed in business-casual attire for a recent interview, but with a stubbly beard and deep sonorous voice, Eggers presents himself as someone deeply committed to his cause. His goals for the chapter, Eggers said, are straightforward.
"I would like to increase the resources that we have: both (the) number of volunteers and expertise of volunteers so that (they) have the ability to accomplish even more," he said.
His definition of "resources" extends far beyond financial capital.
"Resources are not just money, but more members, and how they are engaged," Eggers said.
Beyond conservation education, the Sierra Club's efforts also extend to facilitating outdoor activities, as well as political action on behalf of the environment.
"California has always led the nation in forward thinking about environmental conservation," he said.
In the press announcement, Eggers noted some of the Palo Alto group's accomplishments: "The Loma Prieta Chapter has been very effective in mobilizing its members to encourage cities in our region to adopt Community Choice Energy, to help fight fracking, and to support or oppose local legislation in favor of protecting our natural habitats against runaway development."
The Loma Prieta chapter is also historically important, given its location in northern California, Eggers said.
"Our founder, John Muir, was born in Scotland, roamed all around the world, and decided to settle here because of the great nature," he said.
Eggers is proud of the natural beauty of the area he calls home.
"Within a couple hours' drive you can see some of the most incredible nature in the world," he said. "A lot of people come here from far away to enjoy the nature, and that makes our job of protecting it very important."