2010 - Earl Walden Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Advocacy 

When Linda Gonzales made plans to come to the 2010 APRIL Conference in Kansas City, she was mainly thinking about getting to see folks she hadn’t seen in 3-4 years and planning the presentation she’d make for the closing session. She might also have been pondering what to say when she made the presentation of an award that has been named in her honor to an upcoming young star in the IL galaxy. Little did she know she would be receiving an award herself…one that she so totally deserves and would so proudly accept. 

As past Executive Director of APRIL, Linda had not been at an APRIL conference since her retirement in 2006. She and husband, Jerry, along with Lincoln their Golden Lab and Peavy the cat had planned to “see the country” from their RV, appropriately dubbed Grace. Jerry’s health and a number of other life changing experiences caused them to frequently renew their plans over the last 4 years, but now they have settled in San Diego, California and are happily planning to spend the next chapter of their lives where sea level air pressure will ease Jerry’s breathing issues. Linda’s closing presentation was a testament to Linda and Jerry’s attitude toward life – “Lessons Learned Living in Grace” embodied wholeheartedly the independent living philosophy.

Linda says she felt “proud to be at the APRIL conference and to hear about and see all that had transpired since I left.” She was especially heartened to see the number of young people who are now involved in APRIL and was very impressed at how some of the “youngsters” who were just starting to get the hang of things are now taking charge. “Just seeing kids with their peers really having a blast and including me in their conversations outside workshops and meeting rooms was wonderful. There was real and respectful listening in both directions…it was very rewarding.” 

While Linda felt incredibly honored to receive the Earl Walden Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Advocacy, she says she can’t wait to see some young person receive BOTH the Earl Walden and the Linda Gonzales Award for Outstanding Rural Youth. That would be “somethin’ else!” she says. 

Linda also wanted to extend her thanks and appreciation to Billy Altom for pulling APRIL together and moving forward in his own style…vibrant as ever. “It’s good to see people still so committed. I left APRIL in good hands.” 

Today, Linda is working with Sherry Watson at The Power of Grant Money. Together, they are helping people who want to start non-profit businesses find start-up money, understand the myriad paperwork involved to start a non-profit, connect with their communities and to direct Boards through the mission, vision and marketing stages of development.