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Inspire Awards 2012 Honorees

Hilton Kelly, Environmental Activist

Hilton Kelley, AARP The Magazine Inspire Awards 2012 Honoree

Hilton Kelly — Photo by Chris Crisman

When Hollywood stuntman and actor Hilton Kelley visited Port Arthur, Texas, for Mardi Gras in 2000, he was appalled by the changes in his once-thriving hometown: Buildings were boarded up, unemployment was sky-high, and cancer rates were 20 percent higher than in the rest of the state — the result, he suspected, of the foul air that constantly belched from the smokestacks of the oil refineries at the edge of the city. Kelley decided to move back, and formed the Community In-Power & Development Association Inc. (CIDA), training Gulf Coast citizens to measure toxic-air levels, storming corporate shareholder meetings, and, when necessary, suing the polluters. The payoff? Reduced emissions, health care subsidies at the local clinic, and a $3.5 million fund for new businesses. Kelley, 51, takes little credit. "I believe this is a God-sent mission," he explains. "It was a vision that he gave me that led me home."

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