Mayor of Baltimore Tweets About How Civic Works Helps "Grow Baltimore For Real"

From the Civic Works Facebook page

The Mobile Farmers’ Market – a refurbished newspaper delivery truck equipped with display counters – allows Civic Works to distribute fresh produce from their Real Food Farm to a diversity of people throughout Baltimore. One of the Market’s recent customers was the mayor of Baltimore, the Honorable Stephanie Rawlings Blake. What did the mayor think about the fresh, locally-grown collard greens she purchased? Check out this Twitter conversation…

Real Food Farm Tweet:
@MayorSRB how were those collard greens you got from our Mobile Farmers' Market? #getreal

The Mayor's tweet:
@realfoodfarm fantastic. Thanks. I was just bragging about your farm to my colleagues. Said you help me "Grow Baltimore" For Real.

Forests, Parks & Gardens: the Many Ways NYRP Keeps New York City Green

Sherman Creek Park, Swindler Cove

It’s 10 a.m. and a group of elementary school students has just arrived at Sherman Creek Park for a nature presentation. The students and their teachers gather at a semi-circle of picnic benches and wait as Shawn Walton and Michelle Mar pass out binoculars.

Shawn and Michelle are both AmeriCorps members with New York Restoration Project; a non-profit dedicated to bringing green spaces to underserved communities in New York City’s five boroughs. Shawn and Michelle, who both started at NYRP in January 2013, are environmental educators. Along with Mya Jenkins, the NYRP Education Manager, Shawn and Michelle work to develop educational activities and lead students on nature walks through Sherman Creek Park, located along the Harlem River.

Though the first couple months of their AmeriCorps service were spent planning activities and creating informational materials, Shawn and Michelle now spend their days in the park with visiting students. They usually teach two classes a day, three to four times a week.

Each class begins with Mya, Shawn and Michelle welcoming students to the park and showing them several thought provoking items, like preserved insects or dried fungus. Then the binoculars are distributed and the nature walk begins. Sherman Creek Park is full of flowers and budding trees this time of year, but Swindler Cove hasn’t always looked this way. In fact, those who are familiar with the region’s history know it’s quite extraordinary that a park can now exist here.

The pond in Sherman Creek Park

Back in the 1990s, NYRP helped develop a garden at P.S. 5, an elementary school located on what is now the edge of Sherman Creek Park. At the time, the area that eventually became the park was used as an illegal dump. The ground was heaped with trash, car parts, and tangled masses of invasive vines. The waterfront was lined with collapsed boathouses and debris. NYRP saw potential in this forgotten part of Harlem and began the process of transforming the dump into a useable green space.

From about 1996 to 1999, NYRP hauled away trash and removed the thick cover of vines. The next few years were spent restoring the land and the waterfront to their natural beauty by reintroducing native plants. The five-acre park now includes an urban forest, wetlands, a vegetable garden, a freshwater pond, and a boathouse – all connected by a wide, well-maintained trail. NYRP is now expanding the reclamation efforts by improving a longer stretch of the shoreline. One of their bigger projects involved planting 200 flowering cherry trees between the river and Harlem River Drive.

Back with the class, Mya leads the students to the park’s freshwater pond and quizzes them about the difference between shallow water and deep water. She encourages the students to look for the tadpoles and pumpkin seed fish swimming in the sunny parts of the pond. Then Michelle takes over and asks the students to identify other kinds of animals that might like living in the pond: Squirrels? Turtles? Ants? 

The class works its way through the park, pausing at the waterfront to look at the ducks and cormorants. They stroll through the urban forest to see what’s in bloom and to look for birds. They stop in the garden and gather around the 18 raised beds to learn about where fruits and vegetables come from. Shawn and Michelle love seeing how excited the kids get when they see one of the park’s resident Red-tailed Hawks, or when they watch the snapping turtle swimming in the pond, or when they see food they recognize from the grocery store growing right out of the ground.

In the process of teaching classes, developing activities for visiting students, and helping maintain the park, both Shawn and Michelle say they’ve learned a great deal. Shawn learned that the Harlem River is technically an estuary, not a river. Michelle has picked up gardening tips and learned how to identify many new birds. She hopes to one day have her own vegetable garden.

The nature walk ends back at the picnic benches where Shawn has set up a collection of preserved insects and spiders under magnifying glasses. As the class troops back up to the tables, Michelle stops to get a better look at a large water bird she’s just noticed bobbing in the river.

“What is that?...I’m always looking things up in this job. I’m always learning new things.”


Highbridge Park

It’s fair to say that most people think of the Brooklyn Bridge when they hear about New York City’s oldest bridge. Not many people know that High Bridge, crossing the Harlem River to connect the Bronx to Upper Manhattan, was completed in 1848 – over twenty years before construction on the Brooklyn Bridge even began.

Probably part of the reason why High Bridge is often forgotten is because it’s a footbridge. Part of the reason is because it fell into disrepair and has been closed to traffic since the 1970s. From the ‘70s to the ‘90s, the bridge went neglected because its western end was the derelict Highbridge Park.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Highbridge provided upper middle-class New Yorkers with a place to go horseback riding and rowing. However, with the development of Washington Heights and the construction of the Harlem River Drive, Highbridge became dirty and less accessible. The forgotten park soon became a place for illegal activity. Squatters constructed shacks and people came to deal in drugs and prostitution. Highbridge’s 119 acres were soon littered with trash and the remnants of stolen cars. The park’s grass, plantings, and many of its trees died as uncontrolled vines overtook them.

In the mid to late 1990s, New York Restoration Project (NYRP) reclaimed the Swindler Cove waterfront and created Sherman Creek Park. As development of Sherman Creek progressed, NYRP expanded their reclamation efforts to include the northern end of Highbridge, located just on the other side of the Harlem River Drive. When NYRP started work in Highbridge, it was so overgrown and littered that most of the pathways were buried and needed to be excavated. NYRP removed nearly 500 tons of trash from the park in 1996 alone.

After clearing the trash and the shells of stolen cars, NYRP then worked with the New York City Parks Department to begin restoration of Highbridge by beautifying the northern entrances. Bit by bit, they then removed the invasive vines and helped plant native trees, flowers, and shrubs. Jason Smith, the NYRP Campus Regional Director who oversees Highbridge, estimates that some 3,000 to 4,000 trees have been planted in the park since the late 1990s. The reintroduction of these native plants was excellent for wildlife; the park is now home to hawks, field mice, snakes, squirrels, and many different bird species. NYRP staff members who have seen Highbridge through its transformation agree that every year they see more and different kinds of birds.

Stages of restoration at Highbridge Park. In the background is an area of vines that NYRP staff and Corpsmembers have not yet had a chance to remove. These parts of the park represent what the entire area used to look like before NYRP's intervention. 

Work on the northern end of the park continues to this day. With the help of volunteers, a group of AmeriCorps members and NYRP staff members maintain what’s already been reclaimed and continue to pull out invasives. Tony Lewis, NYRP’s Highbridge Area Supervisor, generally oversees two AmeriCorps members in the winter and three members in the Spring. At any given time, there are about 20 NYRP AmeriCorps members up in Northern Manhattan. Tony started at NYRP as a Corpsmember after he was inspired by the before-and-after pictures of Highbridge. He says that many of the park’s current volunteers come for a similar reason.

“We started just by prettying up the edges to invite people in,” said Tony. “Now they see how we’ve cleaned up the area and they’ve become interested. They’ve become very dedicated, helping us pull out vines and invasives.”

Some parts of the northern end of the park have what Tony likes to refer to as “DVS”: Dead Vine Syndrome. Many native trees still struggle to survive under the gnarled dead branches of porcelain berry and other fast-growing vines. This is where the attention of AmeriCorps members is essential to the park’s success.

“If you couldn’t tell, I’m very dedicated to my AmeriCorps members,” said Tony.

A restored area of the Harlem River along Sherman Creek Park

Tony not only remembers the names of every AmeriCorps member that’s served under him at Highbridge; he remembers which specific plants they added to the park’s landscape. He fondly refers to certain plants as “so-and-so’s rose bush” or “so-and-so’s ferns.”

Kennedy is one of the AmeriCorps members who currently serves as part of the Highbridge-Sherman Creek Park urban forest crew. He used to work as a security guard at the Con Edison building located opposite Sherman Creek Park on the Harlem River. Ken was so intrigued by the restoration work happening in the park that he went down and spoke with someone from NYRP who was collecting litter along the water’s edge. He liked the idea of working outside and eventually applied to the program. These days, Ken is Tony’s “right hand man.” He’s been taking classes at the New York Botanical Garden and hopes to eventually pursue a career in horticulture.

In addition to gardening and forestry work, AmeriCorps members and NYRP staff help manage the park’s volunteers. In Sherman Creek, many volunteers help with the children’s garden or with the park’s compositing effort, which involves recycling food waste from a local farmers' market.

“The composting is just part of our main goal to show what sustainable, environmentally friendly land management can look like in a low-income community,” said Jason Smith.

One of NYRP’s biggest goals right now is to improve the forest cover in Highbridge. Many branches and several large, old trees came down last year during Hurricane Sandy and preceding storms. The organization plans to plant several hundred new trees this fall. Within the past year they planted about 2,500 trees as part of the development of the Highbridge Park Mountain Bike Trail, the only one of its kind in Manhattan. Though NYRP did not build the trail, they have worked with the local volunteers and BMX riders who did in order to protect and promote the growth of the new trees planted on the trail’s eastern edge.

Mountain bike riders are certainly a new addition to the park, but most of Highbridge’s patrons are newcomers, too. Jason, who has worked at Highbridge and Sherman Creek long enough to remember when the park was too dangerous for recreational use, has seen enormous, positive changes in park patronage.

“Families use the park now. You see children and people walking dogs,” said Jason. “When I started, you would have never seen that happen.”


Northern Manhattan Community Gardens

Maggie's Garden

Some of the parks managed by NYRP range over 100 acres. But there are many NYRP-managed properties that cover just a couple thousand square feet. These are the NYRP Community Gardens. There are 11 gardens in Upper Manhattan, nine of them located in East Harlem.   

Some of the gardens are so small and shaded by trees that they could go unnoticed by someone unfamiliar with the neighborhood. To those who live in the community, however, the gardens serve as safe, welcoming places to enjoy some fresh air and meet with friends and family. Many of the gardens have seating areas, gazebos, and grills, making them perfect places for celebrations and summertime barbeques.

No two gardens are exactly alike. Barry Elmore, NYRP’s Manhattan Zone Gardener, points out that many of the gardens were established community gathering places well before NYRP assumed management responsibility. In the late 1990s, over 100 community gardens throughout New York City were scheduled for auction. To save these green spaces from development, NYRP took title to 52 of the gardens and established the New York Garden Trust. The Trust for Public Land took control of most of the remaining gardens. NYRP now partners with community gardeners to ensure that these precious plots remain useable green spaces for everyone in the neighborhood to enjoy.

Some of the Upper Manhattan gardens have raised beds for community members to grow their own produce. Some of the well-shaded gardens are almost entirely paved and act more as courtyards than places to grow fruits and vegetables. It is the job of NYRP staff members and AmeriCorps members to make sure the gardens stay clean, the paths stay clear, and the plantings stay healthy and free of weeds. Barry noted that some of the gardens have been looked after by dedicated community members for many years. NYRP works with these caretakers to make sure the gardens get the appropriate attention and resources.

Rodale Garden

For Barry and the AmeriCorps members who help in the gardens, Monday and Friday are generally days for picking up litter and maintaining greenhouse plants. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are when they can give the gardens more specialized attention: they prune shrubs and trees, plant donated flora, use the bag-snagging device to remove plastic bags from trees, and work with partnering organizations to build raised planting beds and help with events.

A few of the Upper Manhattan gardens are sponsored by major companies or reflect certain themes. The103rd Street Garden, sponsored by Disney, includes a basketball court and playground. The tiny Wicked Garden, based off the Broadway musical, features a yellow brick road and other Oz-inspired fixtures. The Family Garden, commonly known as the Tiffany Garden because of its sponsorship by the iconic American jewelry company, features a shaded front courtyard gated by a wrought iron fence.

One small sign of how the community has invested in the Tiffany Garden and others is how people will sometimes hide cat food under the bushes for the neighborhood strays. At the Tiffany Garden, located just around the corner from Raos, a famous Italian restaurant, Barry says the cats sometimes eat like kings, receiving leftover calamari and whole chickens.

Communities are obviously invested in the gardens in many other ways as well. The Los Amigos Garden, located in the heart of Spanish Harlem, was recognized by the New York State Council on the Arts for its importance to the local Latino population. Though it was constructed in the early 1980s, NYRP worked with community members to redesign the space to better suit their needs. The garden reopened in 2010 with a newly constructed casita where people from the neighborhood come to play cards, relax, and host traditional meals.                                                                                        

“Each garden is a little different based on the community’s needs,” said Barry. “The biggest thing is to try and get the community involved.”


Video: DC Green Corps featured in video about green jobs in the District


Washington Parks & People featured prominently in a recent video about green jobs created by The University of the District of Columbia's College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Evironmental Sciences (CAUSES). The video looks closely at Parks & People's DC Green Corps program, which provides job training in urban forestry and watershed restoration to adults (18 and older) from underserved neighborhoods in DC. Green Corps members help improve DC parks and waterways, learn valuable hard and soft job skills, and graduate the program after 12 weeks with new qualifications added to their resumes. The CAUSES video includes interviews with Steve Coleman, Executive Director of Washington Parks & People, and RonDell Pooler, a Green Corps alumnus who now works for the organization and is currently coordinating the Corps's fifth cohort. 

2013 Project of the Year, Real Food Farm of Civic Works

Before Civic Works broke ground on their Real Food Farm in October 2009, Baltimore, MD had no significant urban farms. Because of its history with youth development and community outreach, Civic Works was selected by the Baltimore Urban Agriculture Taskforce as the perfect organization to operate a “demonstration farm.” Now, just a few years after they planted their first seeds, the Real Food Farm has inspired the creation of numerous urban farms and reached thousands of Baltimore residents through educational programs and efforts to increase access to fresh food.

Real Food Farm continues to grow, but for now it covers about six acres of land in Baltimore’s Clifton Park. The farm is comprised of high-tunnel hoop houses made from steel pipes and plastic sheeting, as well as open fields with trees and rows of vegetables. In 2012, Real Food Farm harvested nearly 15,800 lbs. of food, established 6 beehives, planted 60 fruit trees, installed 2 rain gardens & 1 berry patch, began the process of producing mushrooms, and expanded a composting project.

The mission of Real Food Farm is fourfold: make fresh fruits and vegetables more available to low-income Baltimore families; help grow Baltimore’s urban agricultural sector; provide experience-based education and leverage the farm as a learning tool; and promote sustainable land use. Civic Works uses various methods to achieve the Farm’s first goal of improving food access. The Mobile Farmer’s Market, a converted Washington Post delivery truck, makes home deliveries and pre-arranged stops in and around the Clifton Park Neighborhood. The Mobile Market accepts EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) payments made with Independence Cards, with additional incentives for those using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funds. Real Food Farm also runs a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program with adjustments that allow low-income families to join.

The main way the farm achieves its second goal of inspiring more urban farm development is by getting the community involved. This past year, 457 volunteers spent 1,292 hours working on various farm projects. Additionally, Real Food Farm held events and training sessions that attracted nearly 600 people. A number of former Corpsmembers have gone on to work at or start urban farms, with one former Real Food Farm AmeriCorps VISTA starting the Farm Alliance of Baltimore; a collective of small urban farms that share tools and hold joint community markets.

Internships for high school students, demonstrations, field trips for school groups, and after-school programs are ways Real Food Farm achieves its third goal of educating people about sustainable farming and where food comes from.  In 2012, 883 students from 13 local schools visited the Farm during field trips and 43 students regularly attended educational programming. Through the Farm Lab program, the farm has developed curricula for math classes, to art classes, to English classes. Kids in grades K-12 have all enjoyed field trips at the farm.

Real Food Farm’s fourth goal is realized through the farm’s use of sustainable practices. The farm is built on what were once underutilized sports fields next to two schools. They use rain gardens and are constructing a bioswale to reduce runoff and improve groundwater quality. The property now has a large composting project underway, and the farm recently acquired an industrial-sized freezer for preserving food.

Before 2009, Civic Works – and Baltimore itself – had little experience with urban agriculture. Corpsmembers and staff attended workshops, conferences, and training sessions to learn how to make the farm successful. Now, through plenty of hard work from Corpsmembers, Civic Works staff, and Baltimore volunteers, Real Food Farm is giving back to the community in big ways.

"I went through what they went through and I became someone different" - a former Corpsmember helps young offenders get back on their feet

Where are they now? – Catching up with 2011 Corpsmember of the Year,
Andrew McKee 

Andrew and his crew of NYC Justice Corps members take a break from their work on a community center to pose for a picture

Andrew McKee, formerly a Corpsmember with Phipps CDC/NYC Justice Corps, won Corpsmember of the Year in 2011 for his commitment to service and self-improvement. Read below to find out what he's been up to since accepting his award, or find out more about Andrew and his Corps experience by reading his bio from our 2011 National Conference.

Giving back to the community is very important to Andrew McKee. He is especially dedicated to helping youth with criminal backgrounds make positive changes in their lives. Andrew has firsthand experience with just how challenging life can be for a young man with a record.

Andrew was convicted of a felony and served time at Riker’s Island; New York City’s main jail complex. When he was released from jail on probation, Andrew worried that the stigma of a conviction would keep him from finding gainful employment. He was still in his early 20s and had his whole life ahead of him, but his self-esteem was damaged by the thought that his employability might always be in question. Things turned around for Andrew when his probation officer referred him to NYC Justice Corps – a job corps that helps youth previously involved in the justice system build important life skills and gain work experience through addressing community needs.

Andrew served in the Corps for six months, from January 2010 – June 2010. Looking back on the experience he says what stands out in his memory was his participation in renovating the basement of Labor Bathgate Daycare Center in the Bronx. With decaying, water-stained walls and broken ceiling tiles, the basement was unsafe for the children. Andrew and his fellow crewmembers completed all the necessary repairs and beautified the basement with paint and child-appropriate decorations.

 “It was satisfying to just interact with my fellow cohort members and actually gain some work experience. I’d had jobs before, but nothing like that. Just the whole experience of working together with my peers and doing something positive - that stands out to me,” said Andrew. “Every chance I get or when I go past there I like to check up on the work I did. It’s been almost three years and I still take pride in it.”

While with the Corps, Andrew was placed in a prestigious internship with the New York City Department of Probation. He spent three months serving as an assistant to the Commissioner’s Office, visiting courts in all five of New York City’s boroughs to collect data from juvenile probationers. The information Andrew gathered, as well as his personal insights into the justice system, guided decisions made by Andrew’s superiors about what kinds of reforms were needed in the juvenile probation system.

After graduating from the Justice Corps, Andrew got a job handling internships and doing clerical work for New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development. However, after two years in this position, Andrew realized that the place where he really wanted to work was the Justice Corps.

“I felt like I could use my experience there,” said Andrew. “Having been a Corpsmember and actually coming from the same place that these guys, these new Corpsmembers, are coming from…I wanted to just give my own testimony and feedback and show them that they can do something with their lives. I’ve been there and I sat in the exact same seats that they sit in. I went through what they went through and I became someone different.”

Andrew took a job with the Corps as a Site Supervisor. Every day he leads a group of about 8 to 12 youth, ages 18 – 24, in a community benefit project similar to the daycare renovation project he helped complete when he was a Corpsmember. Most of the skills Andrew teaches his crews are skills he learned with the Corps over two years ago.

“My job entails supervising our participants on a worksite. I do their time sheets [and] I teach them how to do carpentry…I’m just teaching them basic skills like how to do plastering or floor tiling - it depends on what the job is. These guys are beginners and I’m just helping them get their work experience.”

In addition to working with the Corps, Andrew is enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He says he has taken a wide array of classes with plans to receive an associate’s degree by the end of 2013. He hopes to then get his bachelor’s degree.

When he’s not at work or school, Andrew likes to indulge in his favorite hobby: photography.

“Yes. I definitely still do photography. I try to make it a part of my free time any chance I get,” said Andrew. “I take pictures of pretty much everything. Anything I see that interests me I’ll take a photo of it. I also have a strong interest in studio photography.”

Andrew hopes to soon turn his hobby into a profession. He wants to open his own photography studio and do freelance work on the side. While his money would come from putting together packages and taking pictures in his studio, Andrew would also love to send photos to publications or use his camera to document red carpet events.

Completing his degrees and starting a photography business are Andrew’s two main goals, but right now he is happy to help young offenders get back on their feet. To youth thinking about joining a Corps, particularly a civic justice corps, Andrew says:

“If you really want to change then you should take the program seriously. There’s not a lot of opportunities out there that provide these resources and services. A program like this that offers work experience and internships - there are just a whole lot of doors that can be opened for you, especially when you’re young and you’re in this population, 18 – 24-year-olds. You have to take advantage of this opportunity and take it seriously.”


Corps in Kansas City Teaches Youth to Care for Their Environment

Father John Wandless named his program the Urban Ranger Corps based on the philosophy that the participants "all live in the urban core and care for the environment around them — the yards and homes of their neighborhoods — like forest or park rangers." This summer 58 Urban Rangers have spent seven weeks cleaning up trash and old tire strewn lots, shoring up or tearing down sagging porches and rebuilding them as decks or patios; patching and caulking holes in exterior walls and painting houses, building fences, mowing yards and trimming or cutting down overgrown trees and bushes. Work was completed for low-income homeowners, with particular focus on eldery persons and single parent households. The 32-hour work week and 4-hour weekly workshop sessions give the teens work experience and training and earn them a bi-weekly check that pays them up to $2,400 for the summer, for many of the young men, their first paycheck. Fund raising helps purchase equipment and tools and pays their wages. Read more here in an article by Marty Denzer of the Catholic Key Reporter.

2008 Project of the Year: Quality Neighborhoods Improvement Program

Winner: Greater Miami Service Corps


Through the Quality Neighborhood Improvement Program (QNIP), Corpsmembers repair and/or install sidewalks in local neighborhoods.  Since April 2007, 16 Corpsmembers have received hands-on experience installing 13,961 linear feet of sidewalk.  This partnership is mutually beneficial to all partners, achieving each entity’s organizational goals.  QNIP enhances property values in inner-city areas, many of which never had sidewalks.  In addition, Corpsmembers are trained and prepared for work opportunities in the construction field, a high growth area in South Florida. 

The partners include: Miami Dade County Board of Commissioners (set-aside funding for youth workforce development opportunities); Community Action Agency (intermediary with that allows Corps to obtain contract); The Office of Capital Management (policy support and tracking of all capital project completion); Miami-Dade Public Works (project oversight and inspections); Rainbow Enterprises (engineering sub-contractor and project superintendent); Miami-Dade Public Schools/Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center (academic, vocational, and GED training/scholarships); Miami Gardens Job Corps (academic and vocational training for co-enrolled youth); and The Greater Miami Service Corps (pre-employment and life skills, work experience, service learning, counseling, educational opportunities, internships, and job placement).

2010 Project of the Year: Neighborhood Youth Center in Fresno

Winner: EOC/Fresno Local Conservation Corps

Bursting at its seams, with waiting lists in excess of 400, EOC's Fresno Local Conservation Corps took a major risk - constructing a community campus, the Neighborhood Youth Center (NYC). What drove the project was the desire to make a one-stop beacon of hope in an area the Brookings Institution ranked among the highest concentrated poverty in the nation - and to have it designed and planned by Corpsmembers.

Corpsmembers surveyed 1,000 local residents to determine which services were needed, ranking them by importance. From the survey the Corps engaged architects to design a campus with an NBA-sized gymnasium, weight room, and community meeting facility; a child care facility with capacity for 80 Corpsmember children; a vocational training facility to teach solar installation, welding, recycling, and construction applications; and a headquarters facility complete with a 40-station computer lab, space for seven classrooms, and the Corps' administrative offices. The services co-located at the NYC include counseling delivered by masters-level supervised interns from Fresno State University, WIC, WIA One Stop Training, the YouthBuild Charter School of California, Fresno City College, a Career Center, AFLN, and EOC health screening services.

Staff moved into the 60,000 square foot, $16 million complex in September 2009. 

2011 Project of the Year: Over 1/2 Million Square Feet of Cool Roofs


Winner: Green City Force

Over the past 7 months Green City Force, a recent start-up corps, has participated in the New York Cool Roofs campaign with the NYC Department of Buildings, NYC Service, and the Community Environmental Center (CEC). The goal of the campaign was to paint 1 million square feet of rooftops with a reflective coating that can lead to energy savings of 18% in a building.

The white coating (a titanium paint mixture) works to reflect up to 85% of the sun’s rays during hot summer months, lowering the electrical costs needed to cool a building. Green City Force (GCF) was tasked with coating half of the 1 million square feet.

To date, they have surpassed that goal, having coated and cleaned over 600,000 square feet. But as an added bonus, many of Green City Force’s Corpsmembers have become leaders and people capable of recruiting others to this cause.

In May, when the Corpsmembers of GCF’s most recent cycle first started, they had yet to demonstrate their job readiness, professionalism, or ability to interact with their community. Only 6 of the 24 individuals had been employed in the previous year, and these individuals all had low-paying seasonal jobs. By having them paint rooftops, interact with residents on the way to roofs, and arrive at worksites promptly at 8 am, GCF Corpsmembers gained new confidence and understanding of what it takes to succeed.

One of GCF’s partners, Community Environmental Center, became so impressed with the dedication and professionalism of Corpsmembers that they asked GCF if Corpsmembers could supervise volunteers on some of their projects. GCF volunteers rose to the need, sometimes supervising up to 100 volunteers on large rooftops. Corpsmembers handled logistics like making sure brushes, paints, and other supplies were ready for volunteers. In addition to surpassing its square footage goal, GCF has recruited over 1000 volunteers and Corpsmembers have supervised work at over 10 sites. These numbers indicate a significant transformation for Corpsmembers.

To go from disconnected and unemployed to supervising fellow citizens in a project to better the environment and save energy costs, GCF’s Corpmembers have demonstrated admirable leadership, persistence, and professionalism.

2012 Project of the Year: Miami Crime Mitigation Program


Winner: Greater Miami Service Corps

Traditionally, the boarding up of foreclosed and abandoned properties is completed by the banks or private companies. These entities charge exorbitant service fees which are sometimes transferred to the homeowner. To address this problem and to also mitigate crime associated with these kinds of properties (including theft and vandalism), the Greater Miami Service Corps initiated a new project to provide a cost effective, quality service that includes boarding up homes and cleaning the exterior of each property.

The program engages several partners, including the Miami-Dade Department of Permitting, Environment, and Regulatory Affairs and Miami-Dade Police Department. The program not only provides a revenue generating opportunity for the Corps, it also saves homeowners money. In addition, the work serves to provide a business training opportunity by teaching Corpsmembers how to determine required supplies needed to board up a building, its windows, doors, pools, and so forth. It also provides members with skills training in the construction industry and serves as a restorative justice project for Civic Justice Corps programs, thereby increasing positive behaviors. In addition to training, members are also working in cooperation with police to mitigate criminal activity within the Miami-Dade community.

The impact on Corpsmembers participating in this program is significant. 14 of the 17 Corpsmembers (82%) received national industry certifications including green credentials from the National Center for Construction Education Research (NCCER). Members also earned post-secondary elective credits with the University of Florida. Three members earned their High School Diploma and another three members were scheduled to earn their diploma by January 2012. It is also important to note that 29% of the 17 participants are former offenders. This project served as a restorative justice project for these members to give back to the communities they may have harmed.

Corpsmembers have impacted the community by mitigating crime on over 220 abandoned or foreclosed properties. The value of the support to the Miami-Dade Department of Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs through Code Enforcement and the Miami-Dade Police Department is approximated at over $500,000 dollars.