This month, we’re featuring Beverly Cherner, a long-time member of our California Environmental Grassroots funding board. Beverly has dedicated her entire career to the environmental field, focusing on equitably connecting people of all backgrounds with nature – in fact, she was Executive Director Tim Little’s supervisor during the first steps of his environmental career at Communities for a Better Environment! Beverly currently works as Director of Institutional Giving at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.We had the opportunity to interview Beverly about her decades of environmental advocacy and education, what drew her to the Grassroots Fund, and the activities she enjoys outside of work. Get to know Beverly!
You have dedicated your entire career to protecting the environment and advancing equity in the outdoors. What do you enjoy most about working in this space?
It’s difficult to pick just one aspect because I find this work gratifying on multiple levels. Growing up in an activist household in multicultural Detroit during the civil rights movement, I was aware of racial and economic disparities. As an adult, I realized that nature provides so many benefits for mental and physical health, and everyone has the right to experience that. Working at the intersection of the environment and equity is my passion and my privilege. This work has taught me to listen deeply to others about their experiences, and I thrive on continually learning from them about how I can best create an inclusive environmental movement.
What inspired you to join the funding board of the California Environmental Grassroots Fund?
The Grassroots Fund is unique in the grantmaking world, supporting groups of community activists who don’t have access to traditional sources of funding. They’re primarily comprised of volunteers without the assets to invest in professional fundraising. The Rose Foundation not only provides financial support but offers practical tools for organizational capacity through topics such as board development and using technology. The combination of grantmaking and trainings launches effective community-based groups on a path of being self-sustaining. It’s fulfilling to be part of making that success happen.
How has your background in environmental advocacy and education supported your work on the funding board?
As an urban child, my nature connections were the ants in the cracks in the driveway and a lilac bush growing in the alley behind my house. In my work as an outdoor educator, I loved seeing the joy that nature brought to schoolkids. I focused on making experiences relevant to their daily lives, so they could understand that their connections with the environment are lifelong and continue whether they live in cities or rural areas. Coming from an activist background myself, I recognize the unglamorous tasks associated with grassroots work and the stamina that’s needed to engage in this work for the long haul. I admire our grantees for all they accomplish.
What has been your favorite role or most memorable experience serving as a board member?
The Grassroots Fund board spent a couple days in the Bakersfield area, hosted by some of our grantees. Hearing their stories about successfully organizing to protect their drinking water and stopping the installation of air-polluting oil drills was inspiring and I was moved by their commitment. I also loved visiting the parks and community gardens they’d created. It was powerful to meet the people doing such important work for their communities, that we otherwise only read about in their applications or in the news.
As a California resident, how do you spend your time outside of work during these beautiful winter months?
Winter is exciting because it’s when more than 8 million waterfowl, raptors, and other birds winter in the Central Valley. I spend a lot of weekends at wildlife refuges and on rural backroads—just staring and listening. It’s easy to access some of the refuges that are only a few minutes’ drive from I-5. I think about all the people driving nearby without realizing they’re traveling through an extraordinary concentration of birds along the Pacific Flyway. There’s nothing like watching a bald eagle fly over a huge flock of snow geese that then take flight all at once, with thousands of simultaneous wingbeats sounding like a motor. Equally beautiful are the groups of tundra swans and sandhill cranes gracefully feeding on the remnants of crops in farm fields. As a nature photographer, I feel fortunate to witness this spectacle every year.