Executive Director David Lewis is quick to praise the Garden Club of America, a volunteer non-profit, for its perseverance protecting the environment. “Garden clubs have a long history of involvement in conservation. They made a huge push to advocate for the creation of the Clean Water Act, and their members have continued to be leading advocates in local communities.”

The GCA made clear recently: this admiration is mutual. Save The Bay has earned one of the Garden Club of America’s highest honors, the Cynthia Pratt Laughlin Medal for “outstanding achievement in environmental protection and the maintenance of the quality of life.”In a recent newsletter, the GCA touched on six decades of Save The Bay’s history, highlighting why the organization deserved national recognition. Writer Karen Gilhuly of the Woodside-Atherton Garden Club starts the story in 1961, when Save The Bay’s three women founders, Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick, charted a new course in environmentalism.

Gilhuly illustrates how their move to organize around preventing Bay fill “quickly became a model for others fighting to protect natural habitats in urban environments. Up until this time, conservation efforts had largely focused on protecting remote areas of wilderness and creating our natural parks.”

Save The Bay’s groundbreaking partnerships didn’t go under the radar, either. Gilhuly highlights the 1965 launch of Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), “made up of representatives from private, public and non-profit sectors.”

Uniting diverse interests, the BCDC “inspired other organizations to spring up across the United States to protect critical bodies of water.” In 1995, Save The Bay once again demonstrated a collaborative spirit, partnering with eight Bay-oriented organizations to form Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE). To this day, RAE “brings more than 1,000 students, activists and citizens together every other year to share best practices.”

The Garden Club of America also championed Save The Bay for its political effectiveness. Gilhuly sheds light on two of our most successful collaborations: banning single-use plastic bags across California and advancing a historic parcel tax to bring $500M in Bay restoration funding over 20 years.

By chance, this national recognition from the Garden Club of America coincides with David Lewis’s 20th Anniversary as Save The Bay’s Executive Director. David says he’s humbled to build on the work of our brave women founders, and moved to see Save The Bay awarded for: “decades of dedication to the protection of San Francisco Bay from industrialization, pollution, and shoreline development.”

He was also inspired by fellow GCA awardees, environmental advocates such as Former First Lady Laura Bush, honored for her work preserving national parks. In the end, David says he was especially grateful to be recognized by the GCA as “garden clubs really are kindred spirits to Save The Bay because they appreciate – and preserve – natural beauty.”

Save The Bay

Save The Bay campaigns for a healthy Bay and a sustainable Bay Area in this era of climate change and growing population. We mobilize Bay Area residents to protect and restore the Bay for future generations, both as advocates in their community and volunteers on the shoreline. We work with scientists and policymakers to protect the Bay as our region’s most important natural resource—essential to our environment, economy, and quality of life.