Ten U.S. Cities Selected for New AmeriCorps Program to Help Communities Build Resilience

Aug 20, 2015

The Corporation for National and Community Service, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Cities of Service announce Resilience AmeriCorps cities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Rockefeller Foundation, and Cities of Service announced the 10 cities selected to pilot Resilience AmeriCorps.

The cities include Anchorage, Alaska; Boulder, Colo.; Chicago, Ill.; El Paso, Texas; Minot, N.D.; New Orleans, La.; Norfolk, Va.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Tulsa, Okla.

The selection of these cities comes after the initiative was originally announced on July 9 in response to recommendations from President Obama’s State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The 10 Resilience AmeriCorps cities will receive $25,000 and AmeriCorps VISTA members to increase civic engagement and community resilience in low-income areas and help local leaders as they plan for and address the impact of extreme weather events.  Each city was evaluated and selected for local vulnerability to climate-related risk, demonstrated commitment or efforts to improve environmental resilience, and the community’s capacity to host and implement Resilience AmeriCorps members in their cities.

The first-year pilot leverages Rockefeller Foundation support, Cities of Service’s expertise, and AmeriCorps VISTA members to create or expand local capacity to facilitate stakeholder engagement and engage citizen volunteers. The U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will extend subject-matter expertise and specialized support to the Resilience AmeriCorps initiative, including strengthening local program leaders’ understanding of climate-related risks and helping them to create a comprehensive suite of responses to address them.

 “We congratulate the 10 Resilience AmeriCorps cities from every corner of the country that have stepped forward with ideas of how national service can make their communities more resilient, especially those most vulnerable in the face of disasters,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “This partnership is another example of how we collaborate with philanthropy, nonprofits, city leadership, and other federal agencies to address pressing challenges. The Resilience AmeriCorps members will be on the ground to help execute strategies that local leaders have identified as critical to their community’s future.”

"This is another clear signal from the federal government that they are serious about building resilience,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Through the Resilience AmeriCorps program, AmeriCorps members will gain real-life skills through their work in building resilience, and deepen their knowledge of the importance of these efforts. The nation will benefit from smart and trained young people who are ready and able ready to address the challenges facing communities across the country in the 21st Century.”

“Cities of Service and its partners are working to ensure that impact volunteering programs help communities at greatest risk of climate-change, and that they ready themselves before crises strike,” said Myung J. Lee, Executive Director of Cities of Service. “Resilience AmeriCorps builds on Cities of Services’ approach to helping mayors engage citizens to solve big challenges.”

Below is a summary of the challenges that local leaders identified that Resilience AmeriCorps members will address.

Anchorage, Alaska: Not only does Anchorage face a host of stressors that other urban areas experience, but its location means the city must also contend with high costs for food and energy. Through this project, Resilience AmeriCorps members will work with leaders in the Mayor’s office on projects dedicated to increasing the energy efficiency of Anchorage’s aging housing stock, enhancing energy grid resilience through microgrid development, and encouraging more local food production.

Boulder, Colo.: Boulder faces significant threats of wildfires and flooding. Resilience AmeriCorps efforts in Boulder will support the city’s Chief Resilience Officer with efforts focused on establishing a sustainable corps of volunteer community first responders who can provide support to their neighbors during a disaster. In addition, they will serve as points of contact for rapidly assessing impacts and mobilizing resources to support professional responders in times of crisis.

Chicago, Ill.: Chicago’s major resilience challenges include infrastructure failure, flooding, and blizzards. Through Resilience AmeriCorps, the city will develop a resilience plan that expands engagement, resources, and infrastructure to reach the city’s vulnerable populations. The AmeriCorps members’ work will be concentrated in areas of high risk of storm water damage and income inequality.

El Paso, Texas: El Paso faces environmental challenges due in large part to flooding from intense storms and extreme high and low temperatures.  AmeriCorps VISTA members will work with residents in low-lying, lower-income neighborhoods most prone to flooding.  AmeriCorps members will work with community groups, neighborhood organizations, businesses, and residents to train leaders, create emergency response processes and toolkits, and establish information distribution protocols and programs for engaging everyday citizens.

Minot, N.D.: Minot experiences a number of challenges, ranging from flooding to fires and more. Minot will employ AmeriCorps members to develop networks of communication, including workshops and trainings, to engage and inform community members about resilience issues.  AmeriCorps members will also deploy citizen volunteers to reduce blight, create an Evacuteer program, and fundraise and manage new parks and greenways that may be created as part of their ongoing flood mitigation strategy. 

New Orleans, La.: In addition to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, the city has weathered Hurricanes Rita, Ike, Gustav, and Isaac, while facing climate change challenges, wetland loss, land subsidence, and inequality.  New Orleans will deploy AmeriCorps VISTA members in neighborhoods with both high environmental risk and high percentages of poverty to execute initiatives and engage the public in the discussions and necessary volunteer efforts in order to achieve maximum impact.

Norfolk, Va.:  Norfolk experiences periodic flooding due to land subsidence and sea level rise, and increasing frequency and severity of storms.  AmeriCorps VISTA members will work with the Chief Resilience Officer to help implement and expand two of the city’s existing efforts to support continuity of critical services for vulnerable residents.  AmeriCorps VISTA members will also play a role in expanding asset mapping in vulnerable populations, and implementing recommendations from the Mayor’s Poverty Commission.

Phoenix, Ariz.: Phoenix has experienced flash floods from rainfall, coupled with extreme, record breaking heat, and water shortages.  AmeriCorps members will engage vulnerable communities in the city’s climate resilience planning and implementation. They will also lead volunteers to survey the selected communities to determine vulnerability, needs, and capacity related to climate change and other environmental challenges.

Pittsburgh, Pa.: Pittsburgh often suffers from severe rain events, which lead to frequent sewer overflows and heat. AmeriCorps members will be deployed to strengthen community outreach during the resilience planning process and to develop communications materials, content, tools and resources in order to facilitate resilience initiatives, track indicators, and keep stakeholders informed. 

Tulsa, Okla.: Tulsa frequently experiences high wind events, flooding, winter storms and pollution.  AmeriCorps VISTA members will work closely with the city leadership to help develop Tulsa’s broader resilience strategy and increase local capacity for resilience work. Additionally, AmeriCorps members will work to develop networks of communication, including workshops and trainings, to inform community members about resilience issues and to engage them in volunteer opportunities that support the planning and implementation of resilience initiatives.

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