Building Skills, Serving Communities

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icon-clock December 20, 2021

Dear Green City Force Community,

My name is Erika Lim, and I am the Development Manager at Green City Force (GCF). After graduating from college, I completed my term of service with AmeriCorps as an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) FEMA Corps member. This program is based on the original Civilian Climate Corps from the 1930’s. My year of service made a huge impact on who I am today as I was able to gain real-life work experience being deployed to three disasters (Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida, and Maria in Puerto Rico). The skills I learned through my AmeriCorps service term were vital in helping me land my first job at a nonprofit and developing my passion for a career in serving communities. GCF’s program provides these same opportunities for young adults living in NYC public housing and builds job opportunities for graduates.

Above: Erika Lim. GCF Development Manager, with her AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps team in Puerto Rico.

Over the past ten years, GCF has graduated more than 550 participants. Following graduation from GCF, some continue their education while others enter the workforce. Many of our graduates participate in GCF’s Social Enterprise (SE) program, where they can continue to gain work experience necessary for a full-time sectoral job. Our SE program began in response to challenges with having energy work as a service activity during the Corps Members service term. Many Corps Members entered the program interested in joining the energy sector, however, because they do not have experience working in the field, they are not eligible for entry-level positions. The SE program was a way to involve graduates who were specifically interested in the energy field to take training and gain hands-on experiences. With the program, graduates are provided next-step jobs at $15/hour or more that help build skills, knowledge, and experience typically related to energy efficiency but has now evolved to much more than that.

Above: Jayshawn Rhames, Cohort 15 Alum, working at NYCHA’s Coney Island development cleaning the vent passageway of a rooftop duct for cleaner ventilation. 

During COVID-19, like many jobs, energy work was paused. The SE team pivoted their work to support the 2020 Census. The SE team reached out to residents to make sure they knew the significance of the census and ensure their voices were heard. The team reached nearly 1,000 New Yorkers safely through phone calls and text messaging. Once the census outreach was completed, the SE team started a new project that had never been done on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property before, tree inventory. The purpose of tree inventory is to examine the trees’ positive impacts on the surrounding community. Street trees in NYC are counted and examined for their benefits to the city, but trees on NYCHA property are not included. To prepare for the role, the SE team took a training course with NYCHA’s Forest Tree and Urban Forestry divisions to learn how to identify and count the trees. In addition, they learned about pests that are harmful to the trees and potentially hazardous situations, such as branches that could fall during a storm. Currently, in their second year, the team is working at developments considered most high heat vulnerable areas, which were located in the South Bronx, East Harlem, and Brownsville, to conduct the inventory. Last year, the SE team conducted tree inventory at 18 developments and this year at 40 developments. NYCHA was also able to use the findings from the SE team to include in their first-ever Urban Forest: A Vital Resource for New York City Read report. You can read more about GCF Alumni and staff Sadiqua Minor’s experiences working on tree assessments here.

Above: Sadiqua Minor, GCF Finance and Administrative Associate and Cohort 11 Alum, conducting a tree assessment at a NYCHA development.

In addition to taking a training course with NYCHA, the SE team also completed the Trees New York’s Citizen Pruner Tree Care Course. The course consists of eight hours of classroom training and four hours of hands-on experience in the field, where the team learned about tree care, biology, identification, and pruning. Shortly after completing the course, the SE team and the Compost Power team spent a day at the Lafayette Gardens development, supporting a resident with the maintenance of his gardens. I was able to join the two teams along with NYCHA at Lafayette Gardens in late October to learn more about the work they’ve been doing.

The SE team put their new skills to use, working on weeding, pruning trees, and vermin extermination. Joshua Owens, the Director of Social Enterprise Operations and GCF alum from Cohort 9, said, “We want to use Social Enterprise as a stepping stone experience for alumni to see if they have an interest in this as a career pathway and support them with a long term goal to work in this sector.”

Above: Louvinous Harris, Cohort 21 Alum, pruning trees and branches at NYCHA’s Lafayette Gardens development.

AmeriCorps was my stepping stone to my career, and for many of our graduates, the Social Enterprise program is theirs. Help us continue providing opportunities to our next generation of leaders in the green economy by donating to support us in raising critical funding toward our end-of-year campaign

In service,

Erika Lim

Development Manager