Youth Garden Project executive director Delite Primus poses with Community Foundation of Utah executive director Fraser Nelson after being named one of the Enlightened 50. Primus, as well as Jennifer Speers and Colin Fryer, earned the award for their service and dedication to bettering the Moab community. [Photo courtesy of Community Foundation of Utah]

Three members of the Moab community have received the Enlightened 50 (E-50) award from the Community Foundation of Utah (CFU). Delite Primus, Jennifer Speers, and Colin Fryer, have all received the award for their service and dedication to bettering their community.

Each year, the CFU recognizes 50 individuals who are making a difference in the lives of Utahans through community service and philanthropy. The E-50 includes recognized business and religious leaders, entrepreneurs, academics, community volunteers, journalists, leaders of nonprofits, and elected officials who pioneer innovative and sustainable approaches to the critical issues facing Utah.

“We want to recognize people who are unsung heroes and who are working to strengthen Utah by working for the common good,” CFU executive director Fraser Nelson said.

To gather nominees for the award, CFU sends out a statewide survey to entrepreneurs, media and nonprofit organizations. All nominations are anonymous, and nominees are generally unaware of their nomination.

Jen Sadoff, a Moab resident who has long been involved in community development, said she wasn’t surprised at the three names that made the list.

“Delite, Jennifer, and Colin have each contributed so much to the community in many different ways,” Sadoff said.

Survey recipients send back their nominations via Twitter, with a description not to exceed 140 characters, as to why an individual should be recognized. From the initial survey, CFU comes up with a pool of 250 nominees who are then notified. These nominees are then given the opportunity to read the anonymous Tweets and to vote for five that they think best describe a deserving recipient. Of that group, 50 are chosen for the award.

Christy Williams, program director at KZMU, said that in today’s world, grant and foundational support for nonprofit organizations is increasingly scarce, making it difficult for these organizations to meet the educational, cultural, and basic needs of communities.

“It is a big grace to have individuals who can bridge gaps in delivering on organizational missions to serve,” she said.

Of the anonymous Tweets submitted from Moab, one said: “Delite Primus, a farm girl from Iowa, brought locally grown organic foods into our schools in Moab through a Youth Garden Project.”

Primus has been the executive director of the Youth Garden Project (YGP) for 2 1/2 years, and was the associate director for four years before that. She made the trip to Salt Lake City for an awards ceremony that took place on Wednesday, June 18.

“It was an honor and an inspiration to be in a room with all the other award winners for this year,” Primus said. “Being included in this group motivates me to keep striving toward offering the highest quality programs we can and keep working toward changes that are going to bring a positive impact to Moab’s youth for years to come.”

YGP was started in 1996 by Moab resident Sarah Heffron in her backyard. It had one program designed to offer juvenile offenders an opportunity to serve court-ordered community service hours in a “nurturing and educational environment.”

Today, the program occupies 1.5 acres adjacent to, and leased from, Grand County High School. YGP now offers after-school programs, classroom field trips, summer camps, high school science classes and sustainable agriculture workshops. It also has internship and volunteer programs to give individuals a more in-depth learning experience.

“Growing kids, food, and community,” is YGP’s motto, and Primus said that’s what motivates her.

“I feel motivated and inspired by the kids that are at YGP every day,” she said. “I know them and I know so many of their families and I want YGP to serve them in the best ways we can.”

A nomination for Jennifer Speers speaks of the selfless and unassuming way she works to better the community.

“Jennifer gives, gives, gives, not so her name can show up on an annual report or so her logo can be big, but because her gigantic heart tells her to.”

Speers, who has lent her support to many causes within the community, said it’s nice to be recognized, but that she, “doesn’t really do anything,” and that the real recognition should go to those doing the work.

“I am glad to be able to help the community,” she said. “And to be able to see the results.”

Karla VanderZanden, executive director of Canyonlands Field Institute (CFI), said that Speers is a “positive spirit” who conveys a sense of confidence in whoever she supporting.

VanderZanden said that Speers has supported CFI over the years because she believes in its mission of increasing care and understanding of the Colorado Plateau through outdoor education programs. Most recently, CFI signed a long-term lease with Speers to use her property in Professor Valley as a base of operations for its educational field camps.

“Jennifer is a strong land conservationist, but she balances that by knowing the importance of having people and community benefiting,” VanderZanden said.

VanderZanden also said that the next generation is important to Speers, and that she sees the value in educating younger people to care for the land.

Colin Fryer has been involved in the Moab community, often behind the scenes, for many years, and he was nominated for championing Utah’s tourism economy as well as for his support of area nonprofits, including Seekhaven, WabiSabi and SPLORE.

SPLORE is an outdoor outfitter that specializes in getting people with disabilities into the outdoors. Fryer has been involved with SPLORE since the 1980s and has helped it grow from an all-volunteer operation to an accredited outfitter with licensed guides.

“He sidles away from the spotlight,” long-time SPLORE guide Nancy Orr said.

Nevertheless, growing community and finding people who are unsung heroes remains at the heart of CFU’s E-50 award.

“We want to grow a network of people who care about Utah,” Nelson said.

Fryer said that though he was honored to receive the award, he felt pretty insignificant to the other heavyweights involved.

“Those of us who are fortunate enough to be blessed in life have an opportunity to help others,” he said. “I never miss a good chance to help out, but I like to keep it close to the ground.”

“Delite (Primus), Jennifer (Speers), and Colin (Fryer) have each contributed so much to the community in many different ways.”

“Enlightened 50” honors given to “difference-makers” by Community Foundation of Utah