Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Talitha "Tai" Stills 1949-2015

Photo by Carol Carson

(Reprinted from the 2013 Valley Women's Club Hammer-Marcum Award Presentation by Nancy Macy)

Hello to everyone on this beautiful day in the San Lorenzo Valley! We are so very lucky to live here, and to share in the celebration of three remarkable people whose love for this region and its people have improved so many lives. They are ideal recipients to be honored in the names of Annette Marcum and Mary Hammer.

Talitha Stills, known as TAI, has a long history of working and volunteering in the not-for-profit sector, early on with environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club Palo Alto Chapter and later the Sierra Club National Headquarters. She was Executive Director for Marin Discoveries, the Terwilliger Nature Education Center, in San Rafael. 

And THAT was before she moved to the San Lorenzo Valley, where her love of the environment, her love of music, and her desire to serve the community, provided dozens of opportunities for her to share her time and skills.

From the moment Tai joined the VWC Environmental Committee, she was a powerhouse of ideas and creative energy. Her background and experience, and her passion for protecting and restoring the environment, were continually helpful as efforts were made to reach more people and inspire them to live respectfully on the land.

Tai helped inspire the formation of, and helped lead the organization and implementation of, the Watershed Festival of Events. This Festival was a multi-year outreach effort, starting in 2001 and going through 2010. The Festival had many facets, including creating a series of factual and entertaining brochures that were mailed to every SLV resident, providing informational hikes led by a wide variety of experts -- including “auto-tours” for disabled individuals, producing a set of informational photo displays still in use, and presenting a series of in-depth workshops and forums that brought up-to-the-minute information on significant environmental topics to hundreds of attendees.

Tai wrote a series of successful grant proposals to fund the Watershed Festival of Events and the brochures, including one for $33,000 from the State Department of Fish and Game, and others from the Cultural Council, the Santa Cruz County Fish and Game Commission, and the SLV Water District.

Using her understanding of PR and media, and her talent for writing and production, Tai designed the series of four brochures that were mailed to every resident. The brochures included the San Lorenzo Watershed, A Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems, Why Erosion Control Is Important, and Non-point Source Pollution. These brochures have been updated under her guidance, and are still being distributed by the VWC and other regional environmental organizations.

Tai has been active on the VWC’s Environmental Committee, and taken a leadership role in many of its projects, for over 12 years. She has helped staff the sign-in/weigh-in tables at the River & Road Clean up for the past ten years, helped with the information booth at Earth Day in Santa Cruz in previous years, and has researched and composed letters on important issues for the Committee, including arguments against methyl iodide, land use issues and watershed protection.

Tai helped initiate and produce the annual “Environmental Update” community meeting, where our State Assembly Member comes to Felton Community Hall to provide an update on environmental legislation and State issues that impact our region.

Last year Tai designed a cartoon leaflet to remind smokers to keep their cigarette butts out of the streets and off the ground so they won’t end up in the waterways poisoning wildlife, for The Butt Stops Here, the Environmental Committee’s on-going effort to reduce cigarette butt pollution.

A couple years ago Tai was moved by a presentation by Dr. Kerry Kreiger, founder of Save The Frogs, that the Environmental Committee sponsored at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Tai became involved in Save the Frogs, and is now serving on its Board of Directors as Treasurer. Last September she put on a major fundraiser – a Frog Art Show featuring 250 pieces of art, 60 of which Tai personally mounted and framed.

The environment has not been Tai’s only focus. Music, and its importance to people of all ages, has also benefited. Tai was Director of the Young At Heart Project in 2008 and 2009, managing the non-profit organization and raising funds to provide musicians to perform at local convalescent hospitals and senior care facilities, at no cost to the facilities. Thousands of seniors have been diverted and entertained through this program.

Tai was co-producer on a major fundraiser for music and musicians in Santa Cruz County, putting in many dozens of hours and raising thousands of dollars. This was in April, 2011. Tai brought a showing of the extraordinary documentary, “Legends of the Canyon: Music and Magic of 1960’s Laurel Canyon,” to raise funds for the Digital Media Factory. She brought Henry Diltz, the photographer whose images are featured in the film, along with his narration, to the delight of attendees at the sold-out event.

Most recently, Tai joined the Redwood Mountain Faire Steering Committee, undertaking the management of the Meadow and Creekside Stages, and coordinating the logistics for the 21 bands’ performances at the Faire, for each of the past two years. Tai handled the task of renting and arranging for installation of the stages, as well as contracting for sound techs and equipment. She then brought together and managed the large backstage crew that assured the 21 bands, and all their equipment, could perform efficiently, helping make the Faire an enormous success.

Tai is being honored with the Hammer-Marcum Award because she believes in the importance of community education and participation to protect and enhance the environment, and has actively worked for that here for our beautiful watershed. She is committed to working in support of non-profit organizations so that they may provide special services to the community. And, she is being honored for her belief that creating ways for us all to understand and honor the environment, and providing opportunities to share and support music and musicians, works wonders for people and makes our community a better place to be.

(Tai was found dead in her Felton home on Tuesday Dec 15th, her birthday.  Cause of death has not been determined.)

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