The Corps Network Receives Funding from William Penn Foundation to Help Launch Delaware River Climate Corps
Over the course of 2022, $1.65 million grant will help expand or launch Corps programming in 10 communities across Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
WASHINGTON, DC (December 20, 2021) –– The Corps Network is pleased to announce the receipt of a $1.65 million grant from the William Penn Foundation to launch the Delaware River Climate Corps (DRCC): an initiative to enhance climate resiliency and strengthen green career pathways through expanding Corps programming within the Delaware River watershed across Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Over the course of 2022, these funds will help engage young adults in conservation workforce development and critical conservation projects. The DRCC will invest in building upon established Corps programs – including New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg (NJYCP) and PowerCorpsPHL (PCPHL) – and establishing new Corps programs in eight additional communities. DRCC crews will launch within the 2022 calendar year.
“For decades, locally-based Corps programs have helped communities across the country provide workforce development programming and address critical conservation projects. As we confront the challenges of our climate future, it’s important that we take action to build our climate resiliency and train the workers we need for a more sustainable tomorrow. The Corps Network is thrilled about this timely opportunity to expand Corps programming for the benefit of young people and communities throughout the Delaware River watershed,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO of The Corps Network. “We are honored to work with the William Penn Foundation and ten community-based organizations to prepare the region for future Civilian Climate Corps opportunities. As one of the first multi-state Civilian Climate Corps initiatives, we hope the Delaware River Climate Corps will serve as a roadmap for other regions across the country.”
“Programs like the Delaware River Climate Corps, and the proposed national Civilian Climate Corps, mark an important step forward for communities and the climate,” said Stuart Clarke, Watershed Protection Program Director at the William Penn Foundation. “With Americans reeling from a global pandemic, high unemployment, and a rapidly worsening climate crisis — compounded by a national reckoning with centuries of racial injustice — a large-scale service and job training program is the right idea, at the right time. It provides a compelling solution to these compounding crises by creating family-sustaining careers for underemployed and marginalized members of society while also addressing pressing climate and conservation needs.”
The 10 communities in which the DRCC will operate include Wilmington, DE; Camden, Bridgeton, Trenton, and Phillipsburg in NJ; Hancock, NY; and Philadelphia, Chester, Reading, and Allentown in PA. These communities were chosen based on a landscape analysis conducted by The Corps Network to identify areas within the Delaware River basin with strong potential to scale-up existing Corps efforts and foster Corps growth.
The DRCC program design rests on five pillars: just and responsive recruitment; building from proven, existing programs; watershed-focused service activities; institutional partnerships that support projects, recruitment, and career pathways; and preparing young people for sustainable careers.
In line with The Corps Network’s recommendations for implementation of a national Civilian Climate Corps initiative, the DRCC will place a strong emphasis on equity. A goal of the DRCC is to address systemic barriers to employment and provide mentoring and training that can lead to family-sustaining careers in conservation and resource efficiency.
At the center of the DRCC is a mission to restore and bolster the environmental integrity of the Delaware River watershed. In collaboration with various local partners, the DRCC programs will complete a range of high-impact projects focused on strengthening regional sustainability. Project focus areas include landscaping and horticulture, home weatherization, stream and wetlands restoration, environmental mapping and data collection, green stormwater infrastructure, and rooftop solar infrastructure. Through their service on these projects, young adults participating in DRCC programs will help improve habitats, sequester carbon, and mitigate flooding – all while developing marketable skills and earning industry-recognized certifications that can lead to fulfilling careers.
“Over the years, NJYCP has been successfully implementing service-learning projects through conservation work as our Corpsmembers pursue their high school equivalency. These funds from the William Penn Foundation will help us expand our existing Corps, enhance our program model, and incorporate new project partners to perform more meaningful work with credentialed trainings – leading to careers in the green sector,” said Michael Muckle, Director of New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg. “It will also provide unique opportunities to reconnect youth with the natural world and our regional indigenous history. We believe that working in the watershed provides a fitting metaphor for the work we do in our personal lives, as well: taking steps to improve habitat upstream has a ripple effect that can be seen and felt downstream. The impact is not only seen on the ground, but in the shifting attitudes of the young people performing the work.”
“We’re excited to have our region lead and be recognized for our efforts to expand the impact Climate Corps can have on communities,” said Julia Hillengas, Executive Director of PowerCorpsPHL. “Through our work, we’ve seen how effective Corps are in building more resilient and prosperous communities for all, one project at a time.”
The DRCC serves as a regional model for a national Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) initiative. In the Build Back Better framework, the White House called for the creation of a CCC, “with over 300,000 members that look like America,” focused on efforts to “conserve our public lands, bolster community resilience, and address the changing climate.” Funding for a CCC is included in the Build Back Better Act, which is currently moving through Congress. Similar to the example of the DRCC, the Build Back Better Act could, if passed, invest in existing Corps programs and the growth of new Corps programs.
In addition to New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg and PowerCorpsPHL, the organizations involved in the DRCC include Children’s First America – Delaware County, Delaware Center for Horticulture, Friends of the Upper Delaware, Hopeworks, Isles, inc., Native American Advancement Corporation, and Promise Neighborhoods Lehigh Valley. Additional support and technical assistance is provided by the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service and PennServe.