On Saturday May 14th, 2016, Preserve Rural Orange honored local leader Nancy Holt with the first of an annual award in her name, celebrating activism in pursuit of fair and just outcomes. The Nancy Holt Award and a speaker series beginning in the fall of 2016 recognize citizen activists committed to addressing toxic pollutants in the environment. Holt's decades of success researching and seeking solutions for environmental pollution have helped communities throughout the United States and internationally. Smart, outspoken and passionate, Nancy Holt never met a challenge she didn’t take on with gusto, and her encyclopedic command of remarkable facts and statistics makes her a force to be reckoned with.
PRO Executive Director Laura Streitfeld says of Holt, "When Nancy spoke at the community meeting about a UNC airport in 2008 and later as a valued board member, she inspired all of us to do our homework, ask tough questions and share findings widely. Nancy is a shining example of all that our organization strives to achieve: she listens, gathers facts, offers a wealth of resources, and engages communities and decision-makers in time to influence outcomes."
As a retired health advocate, nurse and founder of a successful woman-run business, Holt continues to work closely with citizens, scientists and public health experts on a host of issues, from asbestos plant pollutants to chromium in drinking water near coal ash spills to land farming, a dangerous practice of spreading hazardous waste in undisclosed locations. When her own family experienced devastating health impacts of living across from land where Burlington's municipal sewage sludge is sprayed, Holt took the lead and enlisted scientists to join her, monitoring pollutants, gathering data on high cancer rates, and exposing the extent and impacts of sludge on human health and the environment.
From North Carolina to Flint, Michigan and beyond, Nancy Holt has been instrumental in holding government and industry accountable for cleaning up and stopping contamination of water, land and air. With her encouragement, dozens of communities have come together to collect evidence and pursue justice. Of the decision to create an award honoring Holt's work, PRO Board Chair Robin Gallagher says, "Nancy Holt is the very definition of a community activist—knowledgeable, wise and fearless in the face of injustice. Those who aspire to preserve their community's health and well being would do well to study Nancy's model." Following the award to Holt in the spring, PRO launches an annual speaker series in the fall of 2016.