Cathy Hanks is a fierce protector of the New River and its tributaries. In addition to serving as the New River Valley Program Coordinator for New River Conservancy (NRC), Cathy is also the President of Friends of Peak Creek (FOPC), a community based environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of the Peak Creek watershed. On Thursday night at the New River Valley Regional Commission (NRVRC) Annual Dinner, Hanks was awarded the Citizen of the Valley Award by Kevin Byrd, Executive Director New River Valley Regional Commission.
In his remarks, Byrd said “Cathy Hank is an environmental stewardship spark plug. She really gets people going. She has guided Friends of Peak Creek through 8 years and it has become one of the most trusted non-profits in the region.“ A native Virginian, Hanks has been an outdoor enthusiast since she could walk and would accompany her mother to gather wild greens for salads. As an avid hiker, outdoor photographer, and Certified Master Naturalist, her passion for the outdoors is evident in how she spends her free time as well as the direction her career has taken, and she takes pride in being able to effectively educate and inspire those around her to take action to protect the places they love.
Hanks has been President of FOPC since August 2015. Incorporated in 2013, FOPC is dedicated to preserving a vital historical part of the Town of Pulaski, by improving water quality and ecological habitat, fostering environmental awareness and education and therefore helping to develop recreational and economic opportunities associated with the waterway. Peak Creek flows through Pulaski, VA and is the largest tributary to the New River’s Claytor Lake.
Hanks has also been a valued member of the NRC staff since April, 2022. While working part-time, she contributes to the overall staff by providing wisdom, history, relationships, and a steadfast, resilient personality. Elizabeth Underwood, NRC Executive Director, says “Cathy collaborates well with both fellow team members and volunteers. She provides context and opinions to situations, while also sharing in camaraderie and team-building. Her role has been the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ and NRC’s ability to expand in programs and service in VA could not have been possible without Cathy.”
The Annual Dinner was held at the Volvo Customer Experience Center, a truly unique facility in Dublin, Virginia. In his opening remarks Koen Knippenberg, Volvo Vice President and General Manager, said “We are on a journey of sustainability.” He was referring not only to the path of Volvo, but also to that of the New River Valley as it continues to encourage responsible stewardship and organizations to the valley.
Other award recipients were Champions of the Valley, Delegate Jason Ballard and Robert Graham. The New River Valley Regional Commission is an organization comprised of 13 local governments and three higher education institutions for the purpose of encouraging collaboration to address regionally significant issues and opportunities.
Photo: L-R Elizabeth Underwood, Executive Director NRC; Cathy Hanks, Citizen of the Valley Award; Catherine Cotrupi, Board President NRC.