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The Planet
Who We Are

by Jenny Coyle

We are moms, grandfathers, farmers and students. And we're belly-dancers, mountain climbers, ministers and chefs. To help put a face on the Sierra Club, The Planet is launching a new feature, "Who We Are," and profiling three Club members each month.

Jerry McCulloch - Rexburg, Idaho
Volunteer, Northern Rockies Chapter

Who better than a veteran Fuller Brush salesman to sell Sierra Club calendars? Jerry McCulloch has been a salesman since he was a farm kid peddling eggs in downtown Rexburg, Idaho, population 2,000. Since then he's sold high school yearbook ads, newspaper subscriptions, birdseed and - by going door-to-door for 15 years - Fuller Brush products. Maybe that's why McCulloch manages to sell more than 400 Sierra Club calendars for the Northern Rockies Chapter every year. First he hits up his list of last year's clients. Then he sells calendars at office buildings, in coffee shops and restaurants, and door-to-door in Boise neighborhoods. This guy knows the territory. He also loves birdwatching and is passionate about protecting the environment. "I'm totally committed to the product," says McCulloch. "I've got the calendars with me all the time - in bed, out of bed. I always carry samples so my customers get immediate delivery, if not sooner." And what's in it for him? "I'm competitive," he says. "I like standing out. I like being at the top."

Carl Zichella - Madison, Wisc.
Midwest Field Director

It was a long, winding and just plain weird road that Carl Zichella walked down before finding his niche at the Sierra Club. This descendent of Italian immigrants "all the way back to the boat" is a New York City native whose grandfather and uncle were city cops. His stepdad was a firefighter for the city. Family visits to a cabin in the Catskills turned him on to the natural world, but he didn't dedicate his life to the cause right away. First he worked as a carpenter on skyscrapers, built tennis courts, collected garbage, ran a boarding house and directed energy and housing programs for low-income residents. Zichella discovered the Sierra Club while fighting a nuclear-power plant on the north coast of California. He later applied for the first Club position that became available - associate Midwest representative. A practicing Buddhist, he offers this perspective on environmental work: "It's healthier to be motivated to protect a place out of love for the place and people, instead of feeling overcome by rage and anger and like you want to 'stop the greedy bastards.' One is poisonous and unhealthy; the other is positive and energizing." As you can imagine, Zichella adds, "being an Italian Buddhist is heavy lifting."

Melissa Gardner - Omaha, Neb.
Chair, Missouri River Group

Melissa Gardner has two children and lives in Omaha, Neb., downwind from one of the biggest lead refineries in the country. You could say that's what got her involved in the Sierra Club. The Wisconsin native moved to Omaha in 1974 to attend Creighton University, where she earned a degree in business administration and later attended law school. Next, she ran a 15-person office for a subsidiary of the U.S. West phone company. Two weeks before her first child was born, she quit her 70-hours-per-week job. I said to myself, "Now I'm going to do something I believe in, and I joined the Sierra Club," Gardner says. "I would read the newspaper and think, 'We've got to stop our habits of consumption and destruction.'" Then her 4-year-old son tested positive for lead poisoning. "It was a false positive, but that'll open your eyes," she says. And that's when she dove head first into the Missouri River Group's battle to clean up the ASARCO lead refinery, which closed its doors in 1997. Her sons, now 6 and 8, have memorized the chant: ASARCO! Get the lead out! Against the objections of the group, the city of Omaha bought the site and will make it a park. Will Gardner let her kids play there? "Oh God no," she says.

Know someone whose story is deserving? Contact us at The Planet, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; planet@sierraclub.org.


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