Green City Force Named Most Innovative Nonprofit in NYC by Mayor Bloomberg for Operating as Part of The Corps Network and AmeriCorps' Clean Energy Corps

Lisbeth Shepherd, Founder and Executive Director of Green City Force, and Wesley Booker, GCF Alum and current Community Environmental Center employee, accept NYC's Most Innovative Nonprofit Award from Mayor Bloomberg. The award recognizes nonprofits that exhibit "creative approaches and exemplary program implementation."

We are pleased to share wonderful news! Green City Force, one of our members who participates in The Corps Network's Clean Energy Corps program, has been named the most innovative nonprofit in New York City by the office of the mayor. A runner-up was also chosen.

"These organizations have proven records of improving lives in their communities, helping set New Yorkers on a path toward greater economic mobility," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "New York City continues to invest in innovative solutions to difficult challenges, and we are committed to supporting nonprofits that are doing the same."

Here is an excerpt from the press release published by Mayor Bloomberg's Office about Green City Force and the Clean Energy Corps program:

"Clean Energy Corps engages New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents between the ages of 18 and 24 on six-month environmental projects to educate on sustainability issues and provide critical work experience. Clean Energy Corps teams led the construction of Planters Grove at Lillian Wald Houses in 2011, an 8,000 square foot green space featuring a stormwater irrigation system.

Green City Force has produced a 78 percent graduation rate and a 65 percent job placement rate. On average, participants have achieved a full grade point increase in math or English. Following a two-week orientation, participant teams mobilize on community projects focused on energy efficiency, green infrastructure or urban agriculture. Each Friday is devoted to Green City Academy, a classroom component where participants learn environmental science, intensive math, career development, and technical skills. The program offers intensive follow-up over two years after graduation.

Located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Green City Force serves NYCHA youth who hold a GED or high school diploma but may lack the job skills, work experience or academic performance to secure career-track employment. Launched in 2009, Green City Force supports some of the key goals of PlaNYC—New York City's sustainability blueprint. Clean Energy Corps has served as a model for Americorps's national Clean Energy Service Corps, and has presented at the Clinton Global Initiative."

Green City Force will be awarded a first prize of $20,000 to support their work. Once again, please join us in congratulating them on this great honor!

Strengthening America with the Clean Energy Corps

The Corps Network’s Clean Energy Corps program was featured this week on the Huffington Post in an article written by Interim CEO Mary Ellen Ardouny. The article explains how this youth development program, funded by AmeriCorps and operated in nine Corps, is making a difference.

She writes: “When we envisioned the program several years ago, we thought it would be an excellent way to engage Corpsmembers in work that would lead to credentials and careers, while at the same time saving energy and money for residents in their communities. I'm pleased to report that after nearly two years, the program has proven successful.” 

In a recent six month period, the Clean Energy Corps weatherized and retrofitted 493 homes, of which 98 percent showed reduced annual energy usage based on pre and post-test data. In this same six month period, 3,510 households were informed about energy and cost-saving strategies and 746 additional community volunteers were mobilized on service projects.

But perhaps the biggest benefit comes to the Corpsmembers themselves. They receive credentials like the Building Performance Institute (BPI) Insulation/Air Sealing Technician certification, which allow them to more competitively pursue careers in the growing green energy industry.

Corps currently participating are 
American YouthWorksCivicWorksGreen City ForceHeart of Oregon,Limitless VistasSEEDSChenango Community CorpsThe Sustainability Institute/Energy Conservation Corps, and Youth Conservation Corps.

Read more here. 

2011 Project of the Year: Savings and Solar Power to Cash-Strapped Park


Winner: Los Angeles Conservation Corps

In 2010, Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LACC) greatly increased its capacity to assist and implement solar installation projects. In a four way partnership with theL.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, Permacity Solar, and Los Angeles Trade Tech College, a 50 killowatt commercial solar installation project was completed at Obregon Park. It was the first project of its kind in the county, and has proven so successful that more projects seem likely.

Obregon Park , located in the impacted community of East Los Angeles, is the cornerstone for recreation and residents in the area. By saving on electrical costs, a depleted parks department will be able to use excess money to provide more recreation programming to the residents in the area.

At the beginning and end of the program, community members were contacted by LACC Corpsmembers who went door-to-door to explain the value of the project. In addition to helping educate members of their community about the value of solar power, LACC Corpsmembers were able to shadow a Permacity Solar crew on the project. They participated from start to finish with planning and installation, working alongside the company’s technicians. They also received training in solar installation and theory from Los Angeles Trade Tech College.

Permacity Solar technicians and managers were impressed by the character, confidence, and commitment of the Corpsmembers toward the project. In fact, two of the Corpsmembers who worked on the project were subsequently hired in permanent positions by the company. As a direct result of this project, the County of Los Angeles has decided to pursue funding to install 10 similar systems in other county parks. These systems could result in as much as $2 million of projects directed toward LACC Corpsmembers.

In addition to the success of this project, LACC has benefited by building their own capacity to complete solar installations beyond residential homes. The Corps now has the ability to complete commercial applications. Currently the Corps is installing a 410 kilowatt commercial system at CBS Studios.

2012 Corpsmember of the Year: Maurice Davis

“As a young person, it’s easy to feel directionless and full of self-doubt,” says Maurice Davis. “Often, you don’t put yourself forward, accepting life’s dire circumstances. But when you do take that first step, you are surprised. When you open doors, you find your calling.”

After finishing high school, Maurice had dreams of entering construction work, but he was unable to get a job without experience. Like over 50 percent of young people living in New York City public housing, which counts nearly half a million residents, Maurice was unemployed and fought to maintain hope in an atmosphere of entrenched poverty.

“Instead of discovering ways to improve myself, I accepted my stereotypes,” says Maurice. “I started to believe that I had no potential.” After seeing a flyer in his building, Maurice applied to Green City Force, and was one of 30 selected from nearly 200 applicants to become part of GCF’s Clean Energy Corps.

Corpsmembers perform energy audits and help educate residents about energy efficiency in low-income neighborhoods. While starting a rigorous new training schedule for the Corps that included green job preparation and remedial education, Maurice continued taking care of his disabled mother and bringing his nieces to school each morning. Throughout the program, Maurice was professional and learned to lean on others as they worked towards a common goal: graduation, academic progress, and the satisfaction of completing GCF service projects.

“I’m elevated; I can say I’m on the track for a career, simply because I made an investment in myself. Now, my goal is to rise up in the field of making buildings more energy efficient. I expect to go to college, and to work my way towards a management role.”

Maurice has gained the attention of several interested employers, and in September 2011, Maurice spent a substantial amount of time working on a new park with The Corps Network and Planters Peanuts, work which was in many ways a culmination of his service experience. Maurice, a resident of the neighborhood in which the “Planters Grove” Park was built, committed to being one of two corpsmembers who will provide maintenance and upkeep at the park over the coming year. Maurice will work with a five-person committee of public housing resident volunteers to maintain the park’s diverse gardens. At the dedication of the park, Maurice gave an address talking about his own life and what the park meant to him. Through his address and his continuing commitment to Planters Grove, Maurice has become the face of Green City Force to Lower East Side public housing residents and to the city, state, and federal officials gathered for the opening. Maurice was quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez chose the event to unveil the Civic Corps Jobs Act, an important step forward for the Corps movement.

Through GCF’s EmPower team and his role at Planters Grove, Maurice has discovered a love of working with people that he hopes to incorporate in his career. At a time when AmeriCorps and energy efficiency programs risk defunding, Maurice stands for the ideals of the Clean Energy Corps: an individual with a strong ethic of service, who has found renewed faith in himself, a career path and job related to energy efficiency, and a chance to prove himself as a leader and inspire others through his achievements.