Urban Heroes

Urban Heroes is the Urban Conservancy's annual celebration, highlighting individuals who have been instrumental in shaping our vision for a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

We’ve been honoring our Urban Heroes since 2011


Chuck Morse, Dana Eness, Carol Bebelle, Paul Soniat, Leonetta Terrell, Leah Chase 

Each year the Urban Conservancy honors individuals who represent our Core Values and who have been instrumental in shaping our vision for a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

Our Urban Heroes Celebration highlights our progress as an organization and as a community to promote equitable access to our city’s and our region’s rich economic, environmental, and cultural assets.

What makes an Urban Hero?

Hero (n)- a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal

The Urban Conservancy is just one organization. We recognize that our work is only possible in collaboration with others. We need partnership with and inspiration from community members. People who, by doing what they do, move our mission forward; people who are great connectors between major city projects and efforts at the neighborhood level, and who are tangibly pushing toward our common goal of a New Orleans that is here for good. These are our Urban Heroes. Every year, the Urban Conservancy honors three New Orleanians that go above and beyond the average and do exceptional things for our city.

Look for our Heroes’ bike racks around town!

You can find them in front of the Urban League, Circle Food Store, the Lafitte Greenway, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, St. Peter Claver church,  Del Fuego, Bywater Art Lofts, Finn McCools, Ms. Mae’s, City Hall, Nola Locavores/Saturn Printing, NORA, McDonough 35, Massey’s, Broadmoor Improvement Association, and Thrive New Orleans.

Have someone you’d like to nominate? Check out the Take Action! Tab.
Interested in sponsoring our Urban Heroes celebration? Learn more.
Find a list of our past Urban Heroes on the Resources Tab.

Update 7

Mar 2020

Urban Heroes 2020 Collage

The following press release was originally published on Biz New Orleans:

NEW ORLEANS  – The Urban Conservancy announced its 2020 Urban Hero honorees, five individuals who epitomize the Urban Conservancy’s core values and have been instrumental in shaping a vision for a vibrant and resilient New Orleans.

“Since 2001, the Urban Conservancy has been leading and collaborating to strengthen our urban environment and local economy through equitable practices, policies and programs,” says Dana Eness, Urban Conservancy’s executive director. “We draw inspiration from those who are contributing to a safer, healthier, and more beautiful New Orleans, and whose work intersects with our own in meaningful ways. We love having the opportunity to recognize the contributions of these special individuals.”

This year’s Urban Heroes are Joseph O. Evans III, principal/partner, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture; the Hon. Calvin Johnson, retired chief judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court; Phyllis Jordan, founder, PJ’s Coffee & Tea Company; Bivian “Sonny” Lee, III, founder and CEO, Son of a Saint; and Jenga Mwendo, director of Backyard Gardeners Network, former deputy director of Crescent City Community Land Trust.

Heroes will be recognized at a luncheon Friday, March 6  at the Walnut Room of the Lakefront Airport, 6001 Stars and Stripes Blvd.

Doors open at noon for a reception and cash bar; lunch will begin at 12:30 p.m.  The awards presentation will include a keynote address delivered by Peter Ricchiuti, A. B. Freeman School of Business professor of finance and host of NPR’s “Out to Lunch.”
Funds raised from Urban Heroes support Urban Conservancy’s programs: BASIN (Building Active Stewardship in New Orleans), FYI (Front Yard Initiative), and StayLocal.

The Urban Heroes Awards Luncheon is open to the public, but seating is limited. This event is made possible by the support of LCI Workers Compensation, QSM/Quality Sitework Materials, IBERIABANK, and WWNO.

Get more information about the event.

Update 6

Dec 2019

2020 Urban Heroes

We are thrilled to recognize the contributions of five individuals at our Urban Heroes awards luncheon on Friday, March 6th.

Joseph O. Evans III | The Honorable Calvin Johnson | Phyllis Jordan | Jenga Mwendo | Bivian “Sonny” Lee, III

 Get to know our Heroes

Update 5

Oct 2019

It’s that time of year again! We’re now accepting Urban Hero 2020 nominations!

Every year, the Urban Conservancy honors three New Orleanians that go above and beyond and do exceptional things for our city. We believe an Urban Hero is someone who is tangibly pushing toward our common goal of a New Orleans that is here for good. Someone who presents themselves as a great model for how to build, connect, and nourish our communities. Fill out the form on this webpage to nominate your hero!

Deadline: Thursday, November 7

Update 4

Feb 2019

You can check out photos from our 2019 Urban Heroes celebration is this nola.com feature!

Update 3

Dec 2018

 2019 Honorees

We are thrilled to recognize the contributions of the following individuals at our Urban Heroes luncheon on February 15th. All five honorees will be recognized, and our 2019 Urban Hero will be announced at the luncheon.

Carol Bebelle | Chuck Morse | Leah Chase | Leonetta Terrell | Paul Soniat

Check back soon for details about our five honorees.

Buy Tickets Here!

Update 2

Oct 2018

Urban Heroes 2019 nominations are open! The deadline to nominate an Urban Hero is Thursday, November 15th.

Nominate someone here! 

Update 1

Nov 2016

On November 5, the Urban Conservancy recognized its Urban Heroes honorees at its annual celebration. Read more in the Mid-City Messenger.

Past Urban Heroes

Urban Heroes 2020

Joseph O. Evans IIIPrincipal/Partner, Evans + Lighter Landscape Architecture

The Honorable Calvin Johnsonretired Chief Judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court

Phyllis JordanFounder, PJ’s Coffee & Tea Company

Bivian “Sonny” Lee, IIIFounder and CEO, Son of a Saint

Jenga MwendoDirector of Backyard Gardeners Network, former Deputy Director of Crescent City Community Land Trust


Urban Heroes 2019

Hero, Chuck Morse, Executive Director, Thrive NOLA

Carol Bebelle,
Co Founder & Executive Director, Ashé Cultural Arts Center
Leah Chase,
Executive Chef, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
Paul Soniat, Director, New Orleans Botanical Garden
Leonetta Terrell, 
Community Advocate, Friends of the Lafitte Greenway


Learn more about our honorees here.


Urban Heroes 2016

Andreanecia Morris, Executive Director, HousingNOLA
Keith Twitchell, President, Committee for a Better New Orleans
Leora Madden, Owner, Pearl Wine Co.

With Phyllis Cassidy, Founder of Good Work Network receiving an Above and Beyond Award.

Learn more about our Heroes here.


Urban Heroes 2015
Flozell Daniels, Jr., CEO & President, Foundation for Louisiana
Jay Nix, Owner, Parkway Bakery and Tavern
Prisca Weems, Stormwater Manager, City of New Orleans


Urban Heroes 2014
Dwayne Boudreaux of Circle Food Store
Bart Everson of Friends of Lafitte Corridor
Lee Stafford of New Orleans Eat Local Challenge.


Urban Heroes 2013
David Waggonner
Katrina Brees
Emelda Paul


Urban Heroes 2012

Massey’s Professional Outfitters
Broadmoor Improvement Association

Urban Heroes 2011

UC Cofounders: Ed Melendez, Geoff Coats
Bike-Ped Goddess: Jennifer Ruley


Urban Heroes