2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Holden Foley, Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast
Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide.
Holden Foley has successfully led over 50 conservation and construction projects since, in 2015, he began as an AmeriCorps crewmember on the Apalachicola Nature Trail Pilot Project, the very first project of the Conservation Corps of the Forgotten Coast (CCFC).
Within his first weeks, it became obvious that Holden was a hard worker. He has since moved up the ranks, recently joining the staff of the Corps as a Field Manager.
“He loves to work and is a problem solver. He combines his life experiences, his training, and an effective ‘tough love’ approach to lead his crews,” said Joe Taylor, Executive Director of the organization.
For Holden, however, the path to the Corps was a complicated one.
“I had planned to join the Marine Corps and serve our country,” he said. “But in my last year of high school, I was hanging out with the wrong group of people and made a bad decision. That choice resulted in some time in jail. Officer’s school was no longer an option. During my probation, I was working in the construction field; building houses, decks, and doing odd jobs. I just finally got tired of working seven days a week and getting nowhere. I made good money. I just wanted something more. I wanted my life to have more meaning. So I joined the Corps and I am giving back all I can to my community.”
Holden has been with the Corps since its first day. He’s taken part in every training and earned many certifications. He is certified to teach First Aid/CPR, certified to apply herbicides for the State of Florida, and has completed the Waders in the Water aquatic restoration training by Trout Headwaters, Inc. He is also certified as a Volunteer Manager by Volunteer Florida and the Florida Association of Volunteer Resource Management. Additionally, Holden is a specialty trainer for FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Teams in areas of fire safety, disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue. He currently volunteers with the local Emergency Operations Center as the leader for their Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and will soon be certified as a FEMA CERT Program Trainer. His desire to learn and teach make him a valuable asset to CCFC and the community.
Notably, Holden has an instructor’s certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), which will help the Corps in its efforts to build affordable housing in the city. Affordable housing was a need identified by Holden and the Corps, who discovered that 14 of 17 early crewmembers qualified as homeless. Their early community assessment found that a safe place to call home could be a key factor in a crewmember’s success. Holden is currently finishing his Certified Building Contractor’s License and hopes his numerous credentials will expand the Corps’ ability to construct affordable housing for the community. He further hopes to use his AmeriCorps education award to work towards a degree in Architecture/Design that may contribute to the effort.
Holden chairs meetings of the CCFC Leadership Council with confidence and respects the members’ input. He addresses behavioral challenges by gathering information and determining appropriate corrective actions. He serves as a mentor for crew members who may be having a hard time in their personal lives, and makes time outside the Corps for recreational team-building activities with his crew. He also supports and participates in the Corps’ work with local alternative school students.
Reflecting on what he has learned in the Corps, Holden says, “I haven’t been the best person in the past, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But working with the Corps has shown me that none of that history matters. I am not defined by my past. No one has to put limits on what they can accomplish. I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when our crews complete important environmental work. I enjoy training my crewmembers and using my construction skills in our project work. I have been inspired to help others see the same opportunity and take control of their lives and change for the better.”