We are everyday people who confront brutal facts without engaging in denial or wishful thinking. We will organize and fight and never give up, so when asked the Ultimate Question (“What did you do to fight climate change?”), we can, with no regrets say, ”THIS! Is What We Did.”
Jim Thompson, Founder and CEO
See bio under Board of Directors.
Leigh Evans, Climate Advocacy Program Manager
Leigh (pronouns: they or she) joined THIS! as the Climate Advocacy Program Manager in April 2022. Ever since coming into existence on Earth Day, 1994, Leigh has shared a special connection with the planet and a deep commitment to repairing the world, or tikkun olam, as it’s said in Judaism. Leigh is honored to fight for the collective health of our planet, societies, and all living creatures, alongside an inspiring Board of Directors and dedicated group of volunteers.
After graduating from UCSB with majors in Sociology and Psychology and a minor in Education, Leigh served as an AmeriCorps member in Boston’s City Year program. Working at the country’s first public 9-12th grade high school, they served as the faculty advisor for the student-led Gender and Sexuality Alliance, facilitated SafeZone trainings for school staff, and went on to be a long-term substitute history teacher, leading US and World history classes for all grade levels. Leigh’s passion for health advocacy then led them to a role managing statewide programs for the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, followed by multiple years at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where they contributed to research on the impacts of Boston’s Universal Pre-K program.
Leigh is thrilled to be able to bring their extensive project management, research, and outreach skills to a professional climate justice role. Outside of work, Leigh has been committed to a lifestyle of least harm in alignment with climate justice, and they are so excited to be able to apply that passion to their work.
Leigh is a lifelong student and spends their free time learning as much as possible about everything! They’re a graduate of ImprovBoston’s comedy school and are currently training to be a yoga and meditation teacher. If they had to pick a favorite idea, it would the “both/and” perspective, or elu v’elu in Hebrew: we are in a terrible, scary climate emergency that requires ongoing, collective action… AND for that reason, finding joy and sharing it with others is more important than ever. Leigh can be reached at Leigh@ThisIsWhatWeDid.org.
Board of Directors
Jim Thompson (he, him, his) is the founder of THIS! Is What We Did. He started Positive Coaching Alliance at Stanford University in 1998 to create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports to develop Better Athletes, Better People. PCA conducts more than 3,500 live workshops across the country each year for youth sports leaders, coaches, parents, and athletes and has led a sea change in public awareness that positive coaching is the key to getting the best out of youth athletes and helping them become a Triple-Impact Competitor®, an “Elevater,” who tries to elevate self, others and every situation he or she finds themself in.
Jim received an MBA from Stanford University where he was Director of the Public Management Program, named during his tenure as the nation’s top non-profit business management program. He has written nine books including: Positive Coaching, The Double-Goal Coach, Shooting in the Dark: Tales of Coaching and Leadership, Elevating Your Game and The Positive Sport Parent.
Jim was named an Ashoka Fellow in 2004 and received the “Ethos Award” (Ethics of Sport) from the Institute for Sports, Law and Ethics in 2011, and the “Game Changer in Sports Award” from Character.org in 2018. He has taught courses in coaching, leadership, and sport & spirituality in Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. Jim loves poetry and teaches a weekly online Spiritual Poetry class.
Jim and his wife, Sandra Hietala, are founding board members of Recovery Café San José, a healing community for homeless individuals traumatized by homelessness, mental illness, and drug abuse. Their son, Gabriel Thompson, is a writer on social justice issues including Working in the Shadows: a Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do.
He now is relentlessly focused on answering The Ultimate Question: “What did you do to fight the climate crisis?” He developed the concept of Climate Change Literacy and started the nonprofit, THIS! Is What We Did, to combat the most dangerous threat in the history of humanity. He can be reached at Jim@ThisIsWhatWeDid.org to schedule speaking engagements and learn more about his work.
For more than a decade Dana has been listening to a call to a downwardly mobile life of simplicity and solidarity with those on the margins. She has moved from owning her own home and two rentals to living in a simple cottage. From 5 closets to two closets. From a pastoring in two beautiful social justice congregations, downsizing from 800 members to a small, but mighty congregation of 40 (Urban Sanctuary San Jose).
Since diminishing our individual carbon footprint is not enough, she is honored to join THIS! to address systemic and policy changes as quickly as possible. She brings experience in community organizing with People Acting in Community Together (PACT) and in convening people across diverse experiences through the American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley (ALF) and Faith Leaders. As Pastor of Urban Sanctuary congregation, and Co-Founder of Recovery Café San Jose, she remains energized to invite communities to live in relationship with those suffering in their communities. When Dana’s daughter asks her, “Mom, what did you do about climate change?” she is grateful to be able to say, “THIS!”
Tom Cassutt (he, him, his), has made investments in more than one hundred and fifty private companies and is owner and CFO of American Security Products, a leading manufacturer of high-security safes. American Security Products has been recognized for reformulating its manufacturing processes to have zero discharge of wastewater. From 1984 to 2011, Tom was the owner and Co-President of Nelson Nameplate Company, a manufacturer of membrane switches and product identification based in Los Angeles, California. Due to Nelson’s efforts to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in its manufacturing process, its factory floor was chosen by CalEPA and Governor Schwarzenegger as the signing location of bills AB1879 and SB509, the most comprehensive chemical regulation legislation in the United States.
Prior to joining Nelson, Tom was the Controller of Bristol Corporation, the parent company of ten manufacturing companies, from 1978-1984. He has served on the boards of American Security Products, Columbia Sanitary Products, Dynamic Growth Dental, EZ Shipper Racks, Nelson Nameplate Company, Scottish American Insurance Services, Positive Coaching Alliance, and THIS! is What We Did.
Tom received his Bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1982 from the University of California, Irvine where he was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate. He received an MBA in 1986 from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where he was an Arjay Miller scholar and the recipient of the Alexander A. Robichek Award, given to the top student each year in finance.
Jeff Dale is passionate about facing the dire climate change threat to help create solutions and drive behavioral changes to make a difference for future generations. Currently, Jeff is a Vice President for Field Operations for Positive Coaching Alliance, where he oversees operations for PCA’s Central Territory including operations in Colorado, Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota.
Before joining PCA, Jeff worked as a strategic adviser to Jim Collins, author of the international bestseller Good to Great, and gained unique insight into the practices of building great organizations. Jeff holds a BA in World Political Economy from Colorado College and an MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Jeff is married with 2 daughters and enjoys running and biking in the foothills of Colorado.
Sandra Hietala has been an educator for more than 50 years. Her deep interest and focus has been in the area of helping those who are underserved and overlooked. She has taught grade school, worked with children with disabilities and behavioral issues, and learned to speak Spanish as an adult so she could be of service as a social worker to Spanish-only parents of children with genetic issues.
She has been the Board Chair of her church, Urban Sanctuary San Jose, and is a co-founder of Recovery Café San José, a healing community for people traumatized by homelessness, mental illness, and substance addiction. She is a longtime practitioner of meditation and teaches mindfulness. She loves learning about and enjoying the diversity of animal and plant life, and seeing her grandchildren grow and thrive. Climate change has become a more and more pressing issue as it is impacting all that she most deeply cares about. Her work with THIS! Is What We Did is helping her take positive actions and encouraging others to do the same.
Trennis Jones serves as Regional Director (Central) for Positive Coaching Alliance, a non-profit organization that works to create a healthier environment around youth sports. Within that role, he serves to develop, implement and evaluate long-term strategies for PCA, while working within communities by developing relationships with business, philanthropic, academic, and government leaders.
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Trennis is a graduate of The University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA in Communication. While in Boulder, Trennis was a scholarship athlete on the Men’s Basketball Team from 2000-2004.
Before joining PCA, Trennis worked in the sports industry for over a decade serving as a Player Agent at Octagon and in Basketball Operations for the Phoenix Suns.
Trennis is passionate about leaving every place better than he found it; removing racial discrimination, caring for our climate, serving those within the criminal justice system, and mentoring young people. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf, reading, and yoga. He is most proud to be husband to his wife, Amy, and dad to their daughter, Landyn.
Ralph King (he, him, his), is a grassroots organizer with Silicon Valley Climate Action Now and a documentary filmmaker whose recent films promote climate activism for 350.org, the Sierra Club, and others.
In 2005, he founded Hawkview Pictures, an independent film production company, and made the 2013 PBS primetime special, Extreme By Design, about Stanford University students who make low-cost products for the developing world. King previously spent 25 years as a print journalist and was twice nominated by Wall Street Journal editors for the Pulitzer Prize.
Debbie Mytels retired in 2019 from her position as Associate Director at Acterra, a Palo Alto-based non-profit environmental education organization, and she is devoting most of her time now to community education and action about climate change. While at Acterra, Debbie initiated the Green@Home residential energy efficiency program, which trained over 500 volunteers to visit people in their homes to install energy-saving devices. This program served over 3,500 Silicon Valley residents over seven years, reducing annual CO2 emissions by an estimated 6 million pounds, and raised over $1.4 million in funding. She also founded the “Be the Change” leadership training program, that during six years trained over 150 emerging leaders who are today filling many positions of responsibility in local government, business, and community organizations. In 1990, she founded Acterra’s Business Environmental Awards program, which offered recognition to Bay Area companies for 30 years.
As a full-time climate activist, she is now involved with several non-profit organizations, including Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action (which she founded in 2014), Fossil Free Buildings for Silicon Valley (where she co-chairs the outreach team), and the 350 Silicon Valley Palo Alto team. In addition, she serves on the board of Smart Yards Education, an organization promoting sustainable landscaping, and she also volunteers as an Outdoor Activities Docent with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
In her 33-year career as an environmental professional, Debbie filled leadership roles with various other organizations, including Foundation for Global Community, Canopy, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, and the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club. She also served six years as Executive Director of the Peninsula Conservation Center, one of the precursors of today’s Acterra.
An experienced grant writer, meeting facilitator, and community organizer, Debbie enjoys meeting people and connecting them with others who can advance their life’s purpose and improve society for everyone.
Debbie earned a B.A. with honors in Social Psychology at UC Berkeley and studied journalism at Stanford. She lives in Palo Alto, with her husband, Thomas Atwood, a retired tech writer. Her hobbies include singing, gardening, hiking, bike riding — and going to meetings! She has three grown children and five grandchildren — and it’s for their sake and (in the words of architect Bill McDonough) of “all children of all species” that she is working to protect Earth’s climate.
Community Organizing Advisory Board
THIS! believes that solidarity is the real superpower and the way to build solidarity is through “community organizing.” Our Community Organizing Advisory Board provides THIS! with practical experience and wisdom in this area.
Gabriel Thompson (gabrielthompson.org) is a journalist and author in Oakland who has written for publications that include Capital and Main, Golf Digest, Harper’s, Mother Jones, The Nation, New York Times, New York Magazine, and Slate. His investigative journalism at Super Bowl 50 resulted in a class action settlement of $5.45 million in stolen wages being paid to workers. He is the author of America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century, Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do, and There’s No José Here: Following the Hidden Lives of Mexican Immigrants. His most recent book is Chasing the Harvest: Migrant Workers in California Agriculture, an oral history collection from California’s fields. Prior to his writing career, Gabriel worked as a community organizer for the Pratt Area Community Council (PACC) in Brooklyn. He wrote about his experiences there in Calling All Radicals: How Grassroots Organizers Can Help Save Our Democracy.
Urban Sanctuary San Jose
Thank you, Urban Sanctuary San Jose for your inspiration and leadership!
Urban Sanctuary San Jose has been in the middle of the fight for social justice for many years. A decade ago, USSJ “incubated” Recovery Cafe San Jose, a healing community for individuals traumatized by addiction, homelessness, and mental health challenges.
More recently the church helped THIS! Is What We Did get going. Thank you to Reverend Dana Bainbridge, the USSJ Board, and the entire USSJ congregation for your support!