Barbara Hensleigh is the chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s Central Group, encompassing the area of West Hollywood through East Los Angeles, from Griffith Park through South Los Angeles, and several Gateway cities. She enjoys spending her time backpacking and volunteering.
Describe your background prior to joining the Angeles Chapter.
“I’m what I like to call a recovering lawyer, so I used to be part of a legal practice associated with health care law. I have also been a board member of the Vincent Price Art Museum in East Los Angeles for about 20 years and am an active donor to the Museum. Additionally, I spent about 10 years raising funds for high school students from mostly South and East Los Angeles to send them overseas in an exchange program. Altogether, I raised about half a million dollars and sent over 100 students, so I’m very proud of that. I just love being involved in service and giving back to the community any way I can.”
Which environmental issues are you particularly passionate about?
“How do I even choose? I’d say pretty much everything, but I like to focus specifically on oil drilling, food waste, and sustainability. Also, in my work with the Sierra Club, I’m very passionate about forging collaborative relationships with frontline and underrepresented communities. It’s important to me that the Central Group accurately represents the geographic area that we cover.”
Tell me about your role at the Sierra Club.
“As the chair of the Angeles Chapter Central Group, my biggest responsibilities are to coordinate group activities and recruit volunteers that come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. This group has a very strong commitment to having all the voices at the table, and I’m in charge of ensuring that different voices can be heard in the first place. With a strong group of excited people, I can just step back and let them do their own brilliant things.”
Could you tell me more about your efforts to phase out oil drilling in Los Angeles?
“Since 2016, I’ve worked with STAND LA, an environmental justice coalition of over 150 community groups that seeks to end neighborhood drilling in Los Angeles. In 2021, I was given the task to gather elected official signatures for a letter in support of a motion at the county level to start phasing out oil drilling. I got 45 signatures from elected officials, including Los Angeles City Council Members, and eventually helped to get the motion passed this January, despite problems with getting the city council on board. It’s a very complex process to phase out oil drilling, but the ball’s definitely rolling now. Our next focus is making sure we get the right people elected on the city council in upcoming elections.”
How can people become more actively involved in Angeles Chapter issues?
“People can reach me via my email, firstname.lastname@example.org, if they want to become more involved. Part of my job responsibilities is to recruit people, so I can work with whoever reaches out to me to help them follow their volunteer passion. It’s also really important that volunteers don’t lose hope because things don’t happen overnight. You can change the world slowly, steadily, and patiently.”