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2022 Environmental Leadership Awards Celebrates Local Action-Takers

The 2022 Environmental Leadership Awards, held at the Greenwich Audubon Center, are a celebration of a lifelong commitment to building community, elevating the consciousness of giving back, and inspiring future generations of conservationists.

This year's Environmental Leadership Award celebrated the legacy of Connecticut's O'Brien Family, and the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to New Haven's Doreen Abubakar.

The O'Brien family legacy begins with Donal and Katie O'Brien. As former board chair for Audubon Connecticut and current Board Director, Katie has held an integral role in launching Connecticut's newest conservation strategy - our coastal resilience work and the restoration of local salt marshes. For more than three decades and counting, Katie has hosted an annual "Birdathon" that has brought endless happiness to friends of birds and Audubon.

Donal served in leadership roles in numerous organizations, including 25 years on the Board of the National Audubon Society, 15 of them as Chairman. In this role he was largely responsible for introducing a globally significant conservation initiative to the Western hemisphere: the Important Bird Area program.

Donal and Katie passed along their admiration and wonder for the outdoors to their children, Connan, Kit, Don, and Carrie, who all maintain a sense of environmental ethics and personal responsibility for ensuring we protect birds, other wildlife, and the places we all need.

Connan has followed in Katie's footsteps and today serves as Chair of Audubon Connecticut's Board of Directors; Don is deeply rooted to the Wildlife Refuge Association and served as Chairman; Kit was past President of the Darien Audubon Society and is a volunteer bird bander to this day; Carrie helped protect the Nantucket coasts with the Trustees of Reservation. Together, these conservation leaders understand what is at stake, and the importance of working together to herald our collective resources.


The founder of CPEN (Community Place-Making Engagement Network), Doreen Abubakar combines her passion for native plant gardening with community development and youth empowerment in powerful ways.

She recently spearheaded a project with Menunkatuck Audubon Society, creating "learning corridor" in an empty lot in the Newhallville neighborhood of New Haven, a section known as "the mudhole." This area has transformed into a vibrant community space, including a block-long native plant pollinator garden, a water fountain, exercise bars, and more.

"Everything she touches turns to gold," said Menunkatuck Audubon Society president Dennis Riordan, to the New Haven Independent.

Doreen's vision didn't stop there. Always connecting nature and the health of individuals and communities, she plans to create an education center on the site for young people, who will learn about entrepreneurship and business. 

Doreen is a true visionary who has created a powerful and unique urban development model, and we are proud to have presented her with the lifetime achievement award. 

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