The Corps Network Receives over $2 million from William Penn Foundation to Enhance the Delaware River Climate Corps
From 2023 to 2025, $2.1 million will be allocated to support Corps programs in communities throughout the Delaware River watershed.
WASHINGTON, DC (May 3, 2023) –– The Corps Network is pleased to announce the receipt of a $2.1 million grant award from the William Penn Foundation (WPF) to support and improve 10 climate and conservation-focused Corps programs participating in the Delaware River Climate Corps (DRCC) initiative. Corps across the country are leading the way in addressing climate change issues through national service and employing young adults in environmental careers. For the next two years, The Corps Network and WPF will work closely together to improve policies and procedures, implement a workforce development curriculum, expand the number of Corpsmembers served, increase organizational financial resources, and evaluate long-term program sustainability.
Launched in 2022 after The Corps Network received an initial $1.6 million grant from WPF, the DRCC initiative aims to enhance climate resiliency and promote green career pathways by expanding Corps programming in the Delaware River watershed. The DRCC initiative is a regional-level model for a national Civilian Climate Corps and has helped create eight new Corps and expand two existing Corps across four states. DRCC currently operates in Wilmington, DE; Camden, Bridgeton, Trenton, and Phillipsburg in New Jersey; Hancock, NY; and Philadelphia, Chester, Reading, and Allentown in Pennsylvania. After conducting a landscape analysis, The Corps Network identified these communities as areas within the Delaware River basin that could greatly benefit from new Corps efforts, with strong potential to expand existing Corps growth.
The DRCC places a strong emphasis on equity by focusing on systemic barriers to employment. The DRCC initiative is based on just and responsive recruitment; expanding off proven, existing programs; watershed-focused service activities; institutional partnerships that support projects, recruitment, and career pathways; and preparing young people for sustainable careers. DRCC Corpsmembers are often recruited from underserved communities and can gain valuable skills in conservation careers during service.
Project focus areas for the DRCC include environmental mapping, urban agriculture, solar-powered infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, habitat restoration, data collection, and more. The first phase of the DRCC ended in March 2023 with the completion of pilots at all 10 sites. Among other outcomes during this pilot phase, Trenton Climate Corps in Trenton, NJ, harvested 300 pounds of honey from local hives; Reading Climate Corps in Reading, PA, planted 1,200 native saplings; the Upper Delaware River Conservation Corps in Hancock, NY, assessed 1,100 culverts for improvement; and Tabitha Corps Chester in Chester, PA, vacuumed and cleared more than 80 blocked stormwater inlets.
Thanks to new funding from WPF, DRCC programs expect to expand on their current projects and undertake new ones. Beyond the programs mentioned above, 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, New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, PowerCorpsPHL, and Promise Neighborhoods Lehigh Valley. DRCC also receives support and technical assistance from the New Jersey Commission on National and Community Service and PennServe.
This current grant aims to achieve three outcomes within the Delaware River Watershed: the development of a trained and motivated workforce to address climate change issues; the implementation of a regional network for addressing climate change issues; and the successful completion of projects addressing environmental issues.
To achieve these outcomes, The Corps Network will work towards the following:
- DRCC Corps will receive technical assistance that is specially designed to meet each Corps’ specific needs and support their long-term effectiveness and sustainability. Technical assistance teams will be comprised of Corps staff and contracted experts who will meet with Corps quarterly to discuss challenges and solutions. Additionally, a digital training and resource archive for DRCC Corps will be created to increase overall accessibility to relevant information.
- The Corps Network will support DRCC sites in collecting and analyzing data that provide performance-improving insight. Each site’s ability to record performance-improving data will be assessed.
- The Corps Network will help increase Corpsmember post-program placement outcomes. This will be achieved by promoting and enrolling applicable DRCC Corps in pre-apprenticeship programming and offering a selection of workforce development curriculum tools and resources. Specific technical assistance will also be provided to connect Corps with project sponsors that can expand the Corpsmembers’ field experience and on-the-job training.
- The Corps Network will provide support that enables all DRCC programs to submit applications for The Corps Network’s accreditation process upon completion of the DRCC’s second year. The Corps Network’s Corps accreditation ensures each Corps have access to correct policies and procedures to be sustainable and effective.
- DRCC Corps will establish an equity plan. There will be an emphasis on incorporating Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) framework in Corpsmember recruitment practices, and DRCC sites will continue conducting outreach in underserved areas. Racial equity training that focuses on managing and presenting racial equity content to members will be provided to Corps staff and the Board of Directors. At least one person in each DRCC Corps organization will be invited to complete a Racial Equity Certification training. Additionally, an array of JEDI resources will be provided to support Corpsmembers’ racial equity programming.
“The Delaware River Climate Corps’ immediate impact in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware exemplifies how valuable a national Civilian Climate Corps can be for our country as we face climate change issues,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network. “By putting young people to work in conservation-focused careers, we can simultaneously address key environmental issues affecting our communities and public lands, while also connecting young people to promising environmental careers. The Corps Network is grateful for the William Penn Foundation’s close support and funding in establishing and enhancing the DRCC initiative. Their involvement allows for both current and future Corps to succeed. The Corps movement would not be possible if it weren’t for the countless, bright Corpsmembers in service, and our engaging partner organizations.”