Richard Sundance Owen, ECC Founder and Executive Director
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, the outdoors has always been a great inspiration. Rich moved to Maui, Hawaii in 2002, where the underwater world really came into view. As a scuba instructor, his passion for the environment took on a new depth. An extensive period of traveling in Thailand in 2005 and Bali in 2006 revealed to him the dire problem in the environment. These experiences instilled in him a great passion for the ocean environment and its preservation. Throughout this time, Rich experienced firsthand the marine debris problem in the Pacific which became the main impetus for his support and dedication to the Gyre Cleanup Project. Rich founded the Environmental Cleanup Coalition and the Gyre Cleanup Project in April of 2008. He currently lives in Santa Cruz, CA and Maui, HI. He enjoys scuba, sailing, travel, finish-carpentry and is an artist.
Angela Blessing ECC President, ECC Board of Directors
Angela brings a passion for creative collaboration and a deep spiritual commitment to planet Earth and her Sacred Waters to all that she does. In the spirit of service, she has served on the Council of 1000 Hummingbirds since 2008, an indigenous and non-indigenous council of women who hosted an annual series of far-reaching ceremonies focused on Water in Ohlone territory, while sponsoring various projects related to global clean-water access. Prior to that she was president of Energistx, an innovative online green tech consulting and infrastructure replacement company in Santa Cruz, CA. She is a minister and co-founded the Temple of Yes in 2005 with outstanding friend Halle, creating a sparking hub of social events, community ceremony, collaboration and the celebrations of the arts. Angela is dedicated to nurturing powerful and fruitful alliances as President of ECC, and being a source of strength and inspiration for the team.
Glenda Benevides: ECC Vice President, ECC Board of Directors
Creator, Musician and Founder of Never Give Up show
Glenda meets life with heart, courage, strength and inspiration. And when she takes on any project it is created and designed with these qualities in mind to express, realize, and share her vision. Born in Oakland California, Glenda spent most of her early years in Oregon, then left home in her twenties to perform across the globe. She has grown to be a world-class artisan soul singer, entertainer, and songwriter.
Glenda’s journey in life is music and performing with the aim to make a difference. In the past years, she has gone on to produce, create and design several shows that provide a powerful and thought provoking platform for audiences to be inspired. The result is raising awareness for causes that impact all our lives. She is a leader and advocate for causes that need a voice and uses her artistry and fortitude to inspire action.
Glenda has worked and sung with artists as varied as Toto, Jeffrey Osborne, Pink Martini and Damian Perkins, Broadway artist of “Aida” fame. She has collaborated and written with top producers and songwriters including two-time Grammy Award winner Tony Saunders, who has helped shape the musical careers of stars like Eric Clapton, Patti Labelle and Stevie Wonder.
She has co- written and collaborated with Jimi McKinney Jr. who has been the keyboardist for Larry Graham, Lenny Williams (Tower of Power), Chaka Khan, Teena Marie, Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown, and SWV. And Glenda has worked with multi-Platinum producer, Simon Britton, whose songwriting and production credits include Ashanti , Aaliyah, Boyz 2 Men, Sean Paul, Run DMC, Liberty X, Kool & The Gang, Eminem, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Talib Kweli, Jimmy Cliff, Sting, Usher, Melanie C, Aggro Santos, Kimberly Wyatt, Beverley Knight, Michael Jackson and Leona Lewis.
Thanh Huynh and his family came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1975, where they settled in Southern California. Although he grew up in the “concrete jungle” of Long Beach, CA, Thanh loved the natural environment around him. The Pacific Ocean was practically his front yard and he spent many summer days swimming and playing in that ocean, as well as enjoying the beauty of the beaches. Growing up, he loved to camp, hike, and fish in the nearby mountains and lakes with his friends and scout troop.
After visiting the San Francisco Bay Area several times, Thanh and his wife chose to move there over twenty years ago to build their life together. Thanh loved the “greenness” of the Bay Area in contrast to the desert of Southern California.
Thanh had a very successful career in the software development and IT industry in Silicon Valley. He decided to retire from that career and is committed to making a difference in the environment. He is committed to a global environment that is healthy and sustains all life for generations to come—this includes the responsible development and use of natural resources and energy. Thanh continues to learn and develop his understanding of the global environment. He is currently studying for his Masters in Sustainability and Environmental Management.
Sarah Baumgart – ECC Board of Directors Secretary, and Director of Educational Programs
Sarah Baumgart, grew up in Wisconsin and had the good fortune to spend her summers with family on a lake in the woods. She grew up appreciating access to wilderness and thought everyone could hike to a beaver dam and experience carnivorous pitcher plants in a northern bog. Sarah continued learning about nature and science at University of Wisconsin, Madison and graduated with a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and Education.
She moved to California in 1992, and launched her teaching career with Teach For America, in South Central L.A. shortly after the riots. After receiving her Teacher Credential from California State University Dominguez Hills, she continued teaching at numerous middle and high schools and has made her way to the Central Coast of California, where she continues to teach Biology and Human Anatomy in high school along with post secondary teaching at UCSC in the Cal Teach program. She remains committed to “educating all for the good of all” and promotes Environmental Stewardship in all her work.
Diane Rigoli, ECC Website Project Manager
Diane has been an artist all her life, with 20+ years as a professional graphic designer & art director for myriad projects specializing in the nonprofit sector. Both personally and professionally, her passion is environmental awareness. With a client list that includes the Bioneers Conference, the Pachamama Alliance, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze, numerous authors and publishers, she is well versed in the many tasks involved in the creation of printed and online materials to inform and inspire others to get involved in caring for our planet. She owns and operates Rigoli Creative, Cross-Media Design Solutions in San Francisco, CA and is enthusiastic about her involvement in the Gyre Cleanup Project.
Michelle Melendez, ECC Board of Directors
Michelle Melendez started her own business in 2001 where she founded of the Pilates Cardiocamp in Los Altos and Woodside California and Women Getting Fit, an online fitness program. Expert Trainer Since 1996
Also, in 2001 Michelle received her Bachelor of Science degree from San Jose State with honors.
Michelle has created programs, systems and structures that have allowed her business to reach a consistent six figures each year. She leads a team of fitness professionals and often speaks to local organizations and businesses regarding health and fitness. Since 2007 She has been invited to speak on stages all over the country with 50 to over 300 participants. She is an expert in marketing, business structures and how to connect with people through an online format.
Michelle has a love of the ocean as most locals who live in small beach towns do. She frequents the beaches, cleaning up where she can. Her sister lives on the Big Island of Hawaii and the ocean is one thing that connects her to her family and to her heart.