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Press Release

Six Innovative Californians Receive $1 Million as 2016 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award Recipients

Awards, state leaders honor effective approaches to improving economic development, employment, health, public safety, and water quality

SACRAMENTO (Feb. 18, 2016) – State leaders and nearly 300 guests will join The James Irvine Foundation in Sacramento today to recognize six Californians as recipients of the 2016 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards. The awards recognize and support California leaders who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues.

The 2016 award recipients are:

  • Lenore Anderson, Executive Director, Californians for Safety and Justice (Oakland)
  • Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO, The Sierra Fund (Nevada City)
  • Dr. Dean Schillinger, San Francisco General Hospital/UCSF Center for Vulnerable
  • Populations (San Francisco)
  • Kate Sofis and Todd Rufo, Executive Director and Director, respectively, SFMade/San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (San Francisco)
  • Peter Weber, Founder, Fresno Bridge Academy (Fresno)

The Irvine Foundation is awarding $200,000 to each of the recipient’s organizations (for a total of $1 million this year) to support their breakthroughs on several critical issues. These include improving public safety through crime prevention and support of a statewide network of crime survivors; reducing the adverse effects of abandoned mines on water quality in the Sierra Nevada; closing the knowledge gap between patients and clinicians and engaging youth to thwart the rise of Type 2 diabetes; supporting the growth of urban manufacturing and higher-wage jobs; and, reducing poverty in the Central Valley through an innovative use of public assistance dollars.

“Many of our state’s most creative and effective leaders are successfully tackling enormous challenges yet remain outside the public spotlight,” said Don Howard, president and chief executive officer of The James Irvine Foundation. “We hope these awards will help expand the impact these leaders are having in California by providing them with both recognition and support.”

The award recipients are being honored today at a luncheon at Sacramento’s Sheraton Grand Hotel, with presentations from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, State Senator Bob Hertzberg, and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, Brian Dahle, and Kristin Olsen. High resolution photos of the recipients are available now by emailing Downloadable photos from the event will be available once it concludes by 2:30 p.m. PT today at:

The Irvine Foundation has honored more than 70 Californians with a Leadership Award since the program began in 2006. Award recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee that reviews nominations based on several criteria, including the significance, effectiveness and innovation of the leader’s work.

More detail about the work being done by this year’s award recipients is below. To learn more, please visit

Lenore Anderson, Californians for Safety and Justice (Oakland)

Lenore Anderson founded Californians for Safety and Justice with a new vision for community safety, including putting the voices of the state’s most common victims of crime at the center of policymaking. Her creation of the Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice Network, with more than 6,000 members statewide, has elevated the voices of crime survivors into the discussion of community safety, bringing front and center the need for greater emphasis on crime prevention and rehabilitation.

Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, The Sierra Fund (Nevada City)

Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin is successfully partnering with scientists, regulators, government, and tribal leaders to begin to clean up defunct gold mines posing a threat to the Sierra Nevada region and one of California’s most precious resources: water. The Sierra Fund is also working with the local water district on a technology to spin mercury out of mining material removed from reservoirs.

Dr. Dean Schillinger, San Francisco General Hospital/UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations (San Francisco)

Dr. Dean Schillinger is a national leader on health literacy and prevention of Type 2 diabetes, an epidemic that afflicts an estimated 3 million Californians – and fast growing among youth in the state. He co-founded “The Bigger Picture Campaign” with the nonprofit Youth Speaks, which is enabling California’s youth to share their stories and help change the conversation about diabetes.

Kate Sofis and Todd Rufo, SFMade/San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (San Francisco)

Kate Sofis and Todd Rufo have formed a public-private partnership in San Francisco that is invigorating urban manufacturing, a sector that includes more than 600 local businesses providing more than 5,000 jobs. Their work highlights California’s potential to make even greater strides in leveraging manufacturing to strengthen local economies and create high-paying jobs.

Peter Weber, Fresno Bridge Academy (Fresno)

Peter Weber is taking aim at a challenge that afflicts communities in Fresno and throughout California: concentrated poverty. The Fresno Bridge Academy, which he founded, is directing public assistance dollars to move individuals past poverty toward meaningful employment – with four out of five participants who graduate from the Academy obtaining a job or increasing their wages.

About The James Irvine Foundation

Since 1937, The James Irvine Foundation has provided more than $1.5 billion in grants to over 3,600 nonprofit organizations across the state. The guiding principle in all our grantmaking is to expand opportunity. In our Youth program, that means increasing the number of low-income young people who complete high school on time and earn a postsecondary credential by age 25. In the Arts program, it means promoting engagement in the arts for all Californians, the kind that embraces and advances the diverse ways that we experience the arts, and that strengthens our ability to thrive together in a dynamic and complex social environment. And through our California Democracy program, it means advancing effective public policy decision making that is reflective of and responsive to all Californians. In January 2016, the Foundation announced that new grantmaking initiatives would focus on expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults who are working, but struggling with poverty.