Care for community drives Citizen of the Year honoree

Carla Blackmar Rice

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Carla Blackmar Rice

Concern about climate change, the environment and trash in public areas drives Carla Blackmar Rice to take actions involving them in her personal life, but she also serves as a community activist encouraging others to be concerned and to take group actions.

Those efforts prompted her selection as Oxford Citizen of the Year for 2019 when the committee met Dec. 7. Citizen of the Year recognition is focused on the honoree’s efforts primarily in the past calendar year while the Years category is recognition of long-term community service.

The selection committee is made up of previous Citizens of the Year and Years who meet to review the nominations and choose the honorees.

Being honored for 2019 are Barbara Diehl, who unfortunately died in November, Mike Rudolph, Jim Squance and Jack Williams.

The five 2019 honorees will be presented with a framed print of a watercolor scene of Uptown Oxford at the noon luncheon of the Oxford Kiwanis Club Feb. 18 at the Knolls of Oxford.

The program was started in the early 1950s by Avis Cullen, then the editor and owner of The Oxford Press, and is a partnership with the Oxford Kiwanis Club which pays for providing the prints presented to each person and having them framed.

Blackmar Rice was cited in nomination letters for her personal environmental concern and efforts to inform others.

“She is a community activist for ‘green’ environmental practices. Specifically, in terms of leadership, Carla is the founder, leader and administrator of a group called ‘Take3 Oxford’ in 2018. In the one plus year of its existence, the group has grown to 528 members, thus a significant percentage of Oxford’s residents,” wrote Jim Rubenstein and Bernadette Unger in a nomination letter. “The purpose of the group is to pick up litter in Oxford. The ‘gimmick’ is to pick up and dispose of three plastic pieces of trash on every walk. Members are encouraged to take photos of the litter and post them on ‘Take3 Oxford’ social media. The organization’s purpose states, ‘Not all the plastic just 3 pieces. If you do it and I do it, Oxford is going to be that much more awesome.’ “

That nomination also noted she awards an annual “Take3 Oxford Oscar” to the group member who does the best job of picking up litter. The award is named for the Sesame Street character Oscar the Grouch who lives in a trash can.

A nomination letter by Elena Jackson Albarran illustrated the kind of influence the honoree can have on individuals in making them more aware of things people can do in this effort.

“I just mended a pillowcase, my daughter’s jacket and a toy and thought of Carla. I gave a gift without wrapping paper this week and thought of her again. I hosted a catered event on campus in which I intentionally avoided generating any plastic waste and again Carla was at the back of my mind. These small acts of thrift and conservation may seem like personal choices, but such individual acts have been multiplied citywide for the past two years largely because of one person’s influence: Carla Blackmar Rice. Oxford is experiencing a genuine culture change at the ground level and Carla sparked that movement. It’s hard to imagine an individual who has poured more of their time, heart, energy and passion into a community - so shortly after moving here - and seen as much impact.”

The nomination letter said Blackmar Rice sees herself as an activist, as advocate for environmental justice and sustainability.

“(W)ith a degree in art from Harvard University and experience working in Los Angeles as a city planner, she wields a formidable toolkit that gives her both a creative and a pragmatic approach to environmental policy reform,” Albarran wrote.

The nomination noted Blackmar Rice favors climate activism at the local level, leading the Climate Strike in September in front of Lewis Place for which an estimated 350 people showed up, contributing a booth at EarthFest using her design training to create visual displays illustrating the magnitude of waste and working with the Kramer PTG to eliminate plastic prizes for the Kramer Carnival games substituting seed packets donated by the Whistlestop.

She serves on the Oxford Planning Commission and the Oxford Parking and Transportation Advisory Board and is the advisor to Zero Waste Oxford, a Miami University student organization. She co-facilitated a session of the Called to Life series at the Oxford Presbyterian Church to determine the best allocation of a grant intended for investment in the local community.

Albarran wrote her efforts are a model to others with climate concerns.

“She lives her ideals quietly, but publicly. She and her family chose to live in the Mile Square so that they could live a primarily car-free lifestyle and transport themselves to their places of work, education and childcare. She bikes everywhere to reduce her carbon footprint - hauling groceries or her growing toddler in her bike trailer. Her commitment to reducing her reliance on carbon is an inspiration to many who have taken to their bikes, following her lead and bringing self-propelled traffic to Oxford’s new bike lanes,” Albarran wrote.

The Rubenstein/Unger nomination letter touched on many of the same things and added she has also been elected to the board of the MOON Co-op.

That nomination closed with the following comment: “Social media are filled with compliments for Carla’s leadership in environmental action in Oxford. For example, Oxford City Council member Chantel Raghu writes, ‘Thanks, Carla. You lead by example by the way you and your family live and all the hard work you put into your community. You are such an inspiration and a great teacher!’ “

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