On the sunny afternoon of May, 13 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota employees teamed up with Conservation Corps and the City of Eagan to plant more than 100 dozen seed bombs at Patrick Eagan Park in Eagan. The Corps’ first and largest seed bomb making event took place at the Blue Cross CareFest last fall where employees made more than 70 dozen seed bombs, and other native seed balls were created by more than 200 volunteers in 2013. Seeds in the 'bombs' (which were stored over the winter) contain more than a dozen varieties of native flowers and grasses that attract honeybees and butterflies and prevent soil erosion ― perfect for the park’s native habitat. The area planted was recently treated with a prescribed burn to remove invasive species.
Looking for more ways to get directly involved with Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa? Want to work alongside our youth crews, be active with friends or family and promote environmental stewardship in the metro area? Thanks to a grant from REI, we expanded our 2013 volunteer opportunities. Check out and register for upcoming events on our new volunteer calendar or sign up to receive our volunteer e-update.
Conservation Corps Iowa recently received the Community Category award at the 7th Annual Story County Youth Volunteer Award ceremony on April 29. The award recognized Conservation Corps Iowa members for their invasive species removal, prescribed management burns, savanna restoration and prairie seed collection in Story County over the last four years. In addition, Iowa corps members were acknowledged for representing Story County and Iowa through Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts and tornado relief in Joplin, Missouri and Stafford, Kansas. The awards are given annually by the Volunteer Center of Story County and Iowa State University Student Activities Center.
By Dita Amtey, Youth Outdoors AmeriCorps member
On May 6, a warm spring afternoon made for a welcome opportunity for corps members to learn about local schoolyard gardening, at the second spring All Corps Day volunteer service event. Participants visited Rivers Edge Academy, a local charter school with an alternative, environmentally-driven curriculum. Afterward, corps members heard about the work of Eco Education, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing public outdoor education by teaming up with local schools. Eco Education builds schoolyard gardens to give students hands-on experience with earth science and provide an outdoor alternative to sports. Corps members ended the day with Eco Education staff at Brooklyn Center High School building raised plant beds, making signs and creating mosaics for the schoolyard garden that will soon be an outdoor fixture at the high school.
We are excited to welcome four new people to our Board of Directors. They come from a variety of backgrounds and experience, and we look forward to the energy and ideas they bring to our organization.
James Cannon, Jr.
Employment Coach, Twin Cities RISE!
Read more about James.
Yer Chang, MPP
Research and Evaluation Consultant
Read more about Yer.
Midwest Urban Forestry Coordinator, U.S. Forest Service
Read more about Jill.
Environmental Services Sector Lead, Houston Engineering
Read more about Larry.
All Corps Day focused on housing and environmental justice
On April 1, 33 metro area corps members from Youth Outdoors, Home Energy Squads and individual placements participated in the first 2013-2014 All Corps Day, which focused on housing issues and environmental justice. Corps members participated in teambuilding and networking, and heard presentations by Brian Pittman, research associate with Wilder Research and Nieeta Presley, executive director of Aurora/Saint Anthony Community Development Corp. Corps members also teamed up with Rebuilding Twin Cities to build and paint 11 rain barrels for low-income metro area residents. All Corps Days are planned by corps members and based on cohorts’ environmental service and learning interests. The next All Corps Day on May 6 and will focus on urban agriculture, specifically in schools.
SmartWool Advocacy Fund donated socks to the Conservation Corps the past three years to keep our crews’ feet dry and comfortable as they work outdoors in all conditions. Last year, volunteer marketing intern Jenna Johnson recorded surprised and delighted youth receiving SmartWool socks at the start of a chilly fall semester of Youth Outdoors. She captured the smiles the socks brought to the hard-working Conservation Corps’ youth and young adults in this video of thanks to SmartWool.
On April 9 the first ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service united 832 mayors from across the country to honor national service. Mayors from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico officially recognized the work that AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers are doing to make cities better and stronger. Together, these mayors represent nearly 100 million citizens, or nearly one-third of all Americans. Check out the Facebook gallery featuring photos from recognition events around the country, including mayors from Saint Paul , Duluth and Cedar Rapids, IA. An evening celebration of service was held at the Summit Brewing Co. in Saint Paul.
Calling all youth alumni, friends and family! Join us for this year’s youth rendezvous and catch up with your friends. We will be doing a bit of spring cleaning in conjunction with Saint Paul’s Annual Citywide Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 13. We will pick up trash along the river corridor from 8:30 to 11 a.m., starting at Harriet Island Regional Park, then return for lunch and fun activities from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Kelley’s Landing Shelter adjacent to the Harriet Island Pavilion. The event is open to all Summer Youth Corps and Youth Outdoors alumni, friends and family. Lunch will be potluck. RSVP by Monday, April 1 with names of those attending and what you will bring – side, main or vegetarian dish. Print out and bring along signed waivers.
Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa is developing a friends and alumni association to better connect with and support our past program participants and stakeholders. We want to hear your vision of a Conservation Corps member association that you’d be excited to join. Take this brief survey now and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win one of five Conservation Corps hats or polo shirts.
By Wah Wah
Most teenagers would prefer not to work in the summer but would rather have fun with friends. However, in 2011 I found a job that I enjoyed with the Conservation Corps Minnesota Summer Youth Corps. The job required me to leave my family and travel around Minnesota for two months, making the environment better. This was my first time away from my family as well as my first time camping, and it was a challenging yet positive experience for me. We removed invasive species, cleared and built walking trails, built fire pits and learned how to make a positive impact on our environment. This job helped me to develop new skills and appreciation for my environment.
After my time serving in the Corps, I joined the Corps’ Youth Advisory Council. As a YAC member I help research, evaluate and plan activities such as service projects for our Youth Alumni Reunion. We meet on the first and third Mondays of the month at the Corps central office on the West Side of Saint Paul. We are now developing a website that will feature stories we write about the youth programs and program participants.
For one of our projects last summer, we interviewed individual youth participants three times during the summer: the initial interview was on their first day, the second during the middle of their session and the third on their last day of the program. We wrote about their experiences with Conservation Corps and what they have learned along the way.
From my interviews, I found that being outdoors and trying new experiences was one of the top reasons they were excited to join. One of their challenges was being surrounding by people from different backgrounds. The Summer Youth Corps employs 135 youth that come from diverse places in Minnesota. Most of the youth learned about the Corps from their communities, friends or online. They were very excited about meeting new people and working on natural resource projects in parks and trails in Minnesota. Many of them hoped to travel and camp in different places this summer.
Something I found interesting during the interviews was that they were very nervous and excited about becoming part of the 2012 Summer Youth Corps. It appeared to me that they really wanted to work with the environment. I was very surprised how much they enjoyed talking with me about their experiences and what they hoped to do.
My sister, Dah Dah, was in Summer Youth Corps last summer and was one of the people I interviewed. Working with nature and being outdoors was one of the things she was excited about. She said choosing to be a part of Conservation Corps Minnesota was her best decision of the summer. She hoped to visit the northern part of Minnesota during her session and she was very excited!
Just hours after the last of our corps members returned from the East Coast, where they were deployed on disaster response, several stood on center court during halftime at a Timberwolves game to be recognized for their service. January 30 was Conservation Corps night at the game, and featured a PSA about the Corps and game seats for all corps members who served during the deployment. In total, four teams (94 total corps members) deployed over a three-month period, most for 30-day stints that involved long days in tough conditions.
Read this first-hand account of one corps member’s experience of how deployment changed her life.
Their accomplishments included:
- 24,000 hours served (equivalent to 11.5 full-time workers for one full year)
- 6,000+ volunteers managed
- 20,000 hours leveraged through volunteers recruited and managed
- 776 houses mucked/gutted
- 10,000 meals served
- 3,000 door-to-door wellness checks
- 1,200 people sheltered
Thank you 3M for generously donating 17 cases of respirators, filters and safety glasses for our corps members. Our crews, and the volunteer groups they led, were in dire need of respirators and other protective equipment as they gutted homes and removed mold, drywall, plaster and fiberglass insulation. 3M responded quickly in the interest of our corps members’ safety.
Conservation Corps is pleased to introduce Jonathan Goldenberg, our new Summer Youth Corps program coordinator. He takes over for Nina Eagin, who served as program coordinator for three summers with grace, wisdom and a spirit of fun. Jonathan joined AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps right out of high school and served in the southeastern United States in 2003-2004, then as a crew leader for Conservation Corps Minnesota in the summers of 2005 and 2006. Most recently, he worked in staff positions with the Summer Youth Corps in 2011 and 2012. Read more about Jonathan.
At the same time, we bid adieu to Nina, who started as a crew leader with the Summer Youth Corps in 2008 and helped pilot the Youth Outdoors program. During her time as SYC program coordinator, Nina directed great programs in the midst of state government shutdowns, storms that devastated the camp and a new four-week program model. She also greatly improved the way we integrate deaf and hard-of-hearing young people into our programs. Good luck, Nina!
Each year, Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa programs engage an increasing number of youth and young adults. 2012 was no exception. Last year, 540 Conservation Corps members:
- Served 17,800 hours on emergency response and recovery (Kansas tornadoes and East Coast Hurricane Sandy response)
- Served 10,874 hours on wildland fire response, suppressing wildfire, gridding and patrolling almost 35,000 acres
- Planted more than 150,000 trees and plants
- Constructed / improved 427 miles of motorized and 463 miles of non-motorized trails
- Participated in more than 24,550 hours of personal development training and more than 27,900 hours of technical skills training
Beside these highlights, corps members completed an impressive amount of work that included debris removal, environmental education, community outreach, erosion control, GIS/GPS data and mapping, prescribed burning, seed collection, wetland restoration, invasive plant removal, carpentry, home energy improvements, rain garden installation, surveys and many more activities. More than ever, Conservation Corps continues to restore resources and change lives.
A few years ago, Tara Sloane couldn’t imagine picking up a chainsaw. This fall she spent seven weeks mucking and gutting houses and managing volunteers as a member of the Conservation Corps’ Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
After serving as 2012 Three Rivers field crew member, Sloane stepped into leadership roles she never imagined with behind-the-scenes deployment preparations, financial management and leading cleanup crews ― even though she felt like a novice during her year in the Corps.
“Coming out here, I didn’t even know how a house was constructed or even really where the wires were,” Tara said. "After a week out here, I was leading crews, making sure all the crew members were safe, managing the emotions of the devastated homeowners and keeping their trust in knowing that I would not ruin their home.”
Sloane originally heard about the Corps from a couch surfer friend. “It sounded like an incredible program but definitely not one for me because chainsaws really weren’t something I could see myself getting into,” Sloane said.
After traveling in Eastern Europe where she worked on organic farms, Sloane discovered she liked working outside, getting her hands dirty and being exhausted at the end of a work day. When she moved back to the U.S she submitted her application for a Conservation Corps field crew position.
Early in her Corps term, Sloane didn’t have much confidence and didn't see herself as a leader. Whengiven the opportunity to join the Hurricane Sandy relief response, Sloane didn’t know what to expect. Corps members were told they would work mainly in shelters, but were soon running Team Rubicon’s cleanup operation and training and managing other AmeriCorps volunteers in the Rockaway neighborhood. Men and veterans who had experience working on houses came back again and again to volunteer on her crew.
The work touched Sloane’s life in ways she never thought possible. Her crew worked on the house of Vilmarie and Jose, which had sustained incredible damages. While corps members gutted the house, Sloane helped Vilmarie wash, hang and dry an entire garbage bag of family photos.
Sloane got to know the family through the pictures and stories Vilmarie told her in Spanish. “I felt so connected to them because I was literally hanging photos of her entire life, from holidays to weddings to vacations,” Sloane said.
When the gutting work was done and all the pictures were saved, Jose and Vilmarie cried, hugged and said the crew always had a home there in the Rockaways.
During her second deployment, Sloane was reunited with Jose and Vilmarie while canvassing for FEMA. They welcomed her with open arms, showed her their nearly completed house and reminded her she was always welcome in their home.
Sloane knows her success in the relief effort came from the basic skills she learned during her time in the Corps. As a crew member she was familiar with working long hours, knowing how to be safe with tools and working with different types of people.
“I loved AmeriCorps… I saw so much growth in myself,” Sloane said. “This opportunity gave me a lot of resume builders and I am excited to see how this will translate into my other experiences.”