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Notes about people

March 10, 2011

Anne Hallum, an elder at First Presbyterian Church in DeLand, Fla., and a political science professor at Stetson University, has been named one of Cable News Network’s “CNN Heroes.”

Hallum is co-founder of the Alliance for International Reforestation, a nonprofit trying to help Guatemalan villagers in the mountainous country.

Nearly 373 square kilometers of trees are destroyed each year in Guatemala, according to the University of Santa Barbara's Department of Geography. “Trees are cut for firewood and to make room for the crops, and without realizing it ... they’ve taken away their protection,” Hallum says. “What used to be rainforest becomes an open space for the mud to come right on through."

Through her group’s efforts ― the Alliance has been operating for nearly 20 years ― Hallum is inspiring villagers to stop chopping and, instead, use trees to safeguard their lives and crops against mudslides.

Hallum, a self-proclaimed nature lover, was not formally trained in agriculture when she participated in a Stetson-sponsored field trip to Guatemala in 1991, but she knew some basic facts about trees and food products that could be cheaply grown.

With the help of a former student, she researched rural resources and learned that many local Guatemalan tree varieties could be strategically replanted to provide fruit, fertilizer, coffee, food and medicinal herbs where resources were failing or nonexistent.

Local Guatemalan staff ― all trained agroforestry technicians ― are assigned six villages each and provide free weekly instructional courses on topics like tree planting, sustainable farming and air quality.

Each technician remains in his or her assigned communities for five years. Hallum credits her group’s success to this commitment of staying within a community until the community itself can see and reap benefits.

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The Rev. Peter Gomes, the longtime minister of Harvard University’s Memorial Church who was hailed as one of the nation’s top preachers, died Feb. 28 at age 68 from complications of a stroke he suffered in December.

Gomes defied stereotypes throughout his life with his atypical attributes -- a black Republican and openly gay minister who grew up in Plymouth, Mass. An American Baptist minister, he spent most of his career at Harvard, serving first as assistant pastor at the Memorial Church in 1970. In 1974, he became a professor of Christian morals and the church’s minister.

Gomes wrote best-selling books on the Bible and preaching and published 11 volumes of sermons. In a 1998 interview he explained why he described his preaching style as “a precise tornado”: “There’s a lot of energy and there’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of wind and a lot of motion and movement, but it’s heading toward a precise target.”

Long known as a conservative, Gomes made a surprise announcement in 1991 that he was gay in response to anti-gay rhetoric on campus. “I acted not as an outraged homosexual, but as an outraged Christian,” he said after the incident.

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