Rhea Miller and Sandy Bishop Receive the 2012 Spirit Award
January 4, 2013
Rhea Miller and Sandy Bishop are the recipients of this year’s Lopez Spirit Award. These two dynamic women will be honored on Sunday December 16th at the Lopez Community Center. Established in 2000, the award is given in honor of Dolly and Andy Holland, two individuals whose generosity of spirit in time and talents consistently improved the lives of the Lopez community. The award recognizes an individual or couple who exemplify this tradition.
Bishop and Miller first met in the early 1980s on a Peace-Walk. Covering more than 5,000 miles, the walk followed the rail-route of the “White Train,” which carried nuclear weapons between Washington and Texas. Bishop was a member of the Ground Zero Center for Non-violent Action. Miller was working with a catholic organization, helping transport refugees of violence. Somewhere along the way, pulling handcarts from town to town, they realized they were kindred spirits. That began a dynamic relationship that has endured and blossomed over the course of nearly 30 years.
Sandy Bishop moved to Lopez in 1979. A self-described “lover of endless possibilities,” she initially became involved with a group called Shelter, which advocated for the rights of owner-builder codes. Bishop’s childhood was profoundly influenced by living in the shadow of the Hanford nuclear plant, which led to being a member of Nuclear-Free San Juans. Her father was Chief Steward at Hanford. “He was always watching out for people,” she said. “I saw that as a role one needs to play.” Being community minded is an authentic expression of who Bishop is. “I’m a private person. But I made a conscious decision to participate so I can help create the world I want to live in.”
Rhea Miller calls herself a “People Farmer and Social Artist.” These terms sum up a lifetime of community involvement,
beginning in childhood with social activist parents who introduced her to the civil rights movement. Growing up during the politically tumultuous times of the 1950s and 60s, she witnessed her father being attacked by the John Birch Society for protecting freedom of education. Those early years forever shaped her values and commitment to a peaceful, sustainable future. Miller is primarily motivated by her spiritual center. “My social conscience is about following my heart and my inner spiritual journey,” she said. “It guides my involvements.”
Although Miller and Bishop are unique individuals, they see themselves as a team. They naturally seek balance in relationship and within community. Miller reflected on what motivates them: “Is it right? Are we called to do it? Does it contribute to the greater community?” For both women, Lopez is a primary source of what feeds them and why they have the energy to give back. “There are so many people here who like to play in the realm of possibilities,” Bishop said. “So many who care about what happens. I find that to be unique.” Miller experiences Lopez as a nurturing, healing place. “I wept the first time I had to leave the island,” she said. “I never expected to have a true home.”
Since the early 1980s, Bishop and Miller have been involved in numerous community-oriented activities. Bishop is a founding member and current executive director of the Lopez Community Land Trust, which now consists of five neighborhoods. Miller was a San Juan County Commissioner for over 10 years and has recently launched the organization Deep Song, as a facilitator and consultant.
Some of their many active public roles include the Islands Energy Coalition, Farm-to-School Program, SJC Charter Review, Children’s Center, Lopez Village Planning Committee, GMO-Free San Juans, Seed Library, Farmers Market and most recently, the Solid Waste Alternatives Program. Their equally busy personal lives include study groups, officiating at weddings and memorials, teaching, and work with indigenous peoples, including the Tribal Canoe Journey.
Sandy Bishop and Rhea Miller have high hopes for humanity. They have chosen a path dedicated to improving the lives of others through active participation and vibrant leadership. They join a growing list of community members who have received the Lopez Spirit Award. Come celebrate these wonderful women who have given so much to the Lopez Community.