SMCDC is a 2023 Grantee of the Community Resilience & Environmental Justice Fund
The Office of Sustainability is excited to announce the 2023 grant recipients of the Community Resilience & Environmental Justice Fund (CREJ Fund).
This Fund is supported by the William Penn Foundation, steered by the Philadelphia Environmental Justice Advisory Commission, and fiscally administered by the Philadelphia City Fund. The CREJ Fundsupports community groups working to ensure that all Philadelphia residents have a livable community, free of environmental toxins and hazards. This means:
Clean air, land, and water
Healthy, fresh, and culturally appropriate foods
Homes, jobs, and neighborhoods free from pollutants and toxins
Communities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change, such as flooding and extreme heat
These 15 community groups will each receive $10,000 to advance their visions of environmental justice:
Center in the Park
Center in the Park (CIP) is a nationally accredited nonprofit senior community center located in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood. The CREJ Fund will support CIP’s Senior Environment Corps (CIP/SEC), a member-led group focused on environmental issues and advocacy in communities in and around Germantown. The CIP/SEC has a successful 30+ year history of monitoring the water quality of the Wissahickon Creek watershed. The CIP/SEC is now looking to build on this model by testing air quality and developing a neighborhood network of air quality information in consultation with Drexel University. This Clean Air Project will address growing concerns related to air pollution and its adverse impact on the health of residents of northwest Philadelphia, especially older adults who are particularly vulnerable.
Cloud 9 Community Farms
Cloud 9 Community Farms (Cloud 9) is a community-led nonprofit with a mission to foster leadership, resilience, and environmental stewardship through youth and community-led food and garden programs. The CREJ Fund is supporting Cloud 9’s Belmont Agrihood Project, a community-led food production and distribution plan created in response to the neighborhood’s need for food access and employment opportunities in the face of pressures from gentrification. Project activities will include hosting woodworking workshops and community events, continuing garden trainings, harvesting and distributing Cloud 9 grown produce, and improving digital data collection capabilities and events marketing. Cloud 9 has partnered with the Friends Rehabilitation Program, Calvary-St. Augustine Episcopal Church, Greener Partners, and Belmont CDC on this initiative.
Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center
Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center’s (CCCEEC) mission is to provide environmental education and civic engagement programs to underserved communities in Southwest and West Philadelphia. Support from the CREJ Fund will help CCCEEC organize the West Philadelphia Youth Environmental Justice Council (WPYEJC) as an after-school civic education program in a pilot West Philadelphia high school this school year. The WPYEJC will conduct an environmental issues study that involves identifying key environmental issues that young people are most concerned about, analyzing root causes, and proposing recommendations in a public presentation. The WPYEJC will be comprised of 15-20 students with a mission to advocate for the right of the poor and people of color to live in a community that is safe from environmental impacts.
Fair Amount Food Forest
Fair Amount Food Forest (FAFF) is a grassroots 501(c)3 community farm which has begun developing two acres of leased City land in Strawberry Mansion. FAFF’s vision is to serve as a multi-faceted community learning center and gathering space to explore and steward healthy relationships with each other and the environment through growing volumes of fresh, healthy food ecologically. Recognizing that the work of various local partners in Strawberry Mansion overlaps in food and farming, FAFF and partner Brothers of Strawberry Mansion (BOSM) will utilize the CREJ grant to host community and partner planning meetings to discuss how to work together, share, and expand resources and to plan the return of a farmers’ market. FAFF and BOSM will also implement cooking and nutrition demonstrations and healthy BBQs at existing events with paid culinary youth and adult chef mentors to increase engagement and healthy meal preparation.
Future Visions Lab seeks to plant seeds for deep transformation. What started as an afterschool program at Dobbins, a public technical high school in North Philly, has grown into a creative cross-curricular lab that facilitates systems thinking and real-world collaborative, paid, youth-driven social and environmental justice projects. Beginning in 2020, students collectively chose two issues to understand and impact: violence and environmental justice. After identifying urban agriculture as a creative intervention addressing root causes, Future Visions started a school garden that has expanded to include indoor hydroponics supported by Biotechnology, herbal tea production and farm-to-table meals crafted by Culinary Arts, natural scrubs created by Cosmetology, and mosaic designs by Art and Property Maintenance. Support from the CREJ Fund will help build capacity to sustain this innovative program.
Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together
Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together (GREAT) uses collective resources to grow food, share tools, support residents in times of need, organize around issues of housing justice, and strengthen holistic health and well-being. The CREJ Fund will support GREAT in growing community resilience around flood damage prevention and safety by building out their existing Organizer’s Guide for Emergency Preparedness & Community Self-Reliance. GREAT will develop a replicable model that can be applied to other environmental justice issues facing the Germantown community and will invite two Germantown groups of neighbors to collaborate on bringing the model to life in a pilot project.
Hunting Park Green
Hunting Park Green (HP Green) is committed to engaging youth from the Hunting Park area in the process of designing, beautifying, and stewarding their community. Through empowering youth to plan and execute greening initiatives within their neighborhood, HP Green’s goal is to nurture sustainable and intergenerational community leadership. HP Green began operating in 2020 inspired by the work of UC Green (another CREJ grantee). A full organization launch is planned for 2024 following organizational infrastructure and curriculum development that builds upon the successful roll-out of two pilot programming cycles. The CREJ Fund is supporting HP Green’s launch of paid youth-led community engagement and media design teams and community cleaning and outreach events.
Jubilee School is a small independent community school serving West and Southwest Philadelphia. At Jubilee, students are encouraged to make significant change in their communities through activism. Support from the CREJ Fund will enable students to implement projects targeting the interrelated issues of gun violence and environmental justice. Jubilee students have reviewed studies showing a significant reduction in violence in spaces with more tree canopy, and therefore see the City’s goal to increase tree coverage as directly connected to “Songs of the Children,” their ongoing campaign against gun violence. Cooler temperatures, cleaner air, and aesthetically pleasing environments result in healthier neighborhoods for safer communities. This year’s all-school study supported by the CREJ Fund will focus on trees and prepare students to organize, plan and implement a tree-planting campaign in their home communities.
Norris Community Resident Council, Inc.
The Norris Community Resident Council, Inc. (NCRC) serves the North Central Philadelphia community through free, year-round educational programming that ensures access to academic support, extra-curricular activities, and a safe learning environment for youth. NCRC will create the opportunity for youth to be civic leaders and change agents by managing an environmental justice service project supported by the CREJ Fund. Youth in NCRC’s after-school program will identify an environmental justice issue impacting their community, propose a solution, and manage project implementation. STEM kits related to the environmental justice issue identified will be purchased for student’s use and to support their project display at NCRC’s annual STEM Fair attended by parents and community members.
Strawberry Mansion CDC
Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation (SMCDC) works closely with Strawberry Mansion community members to address critical needs related to social determinants of health and to ensure sustainable and equitable development. The CREJ Fund will support SMCDC’s Green Resource Center and Community Garden, a thriving inter-generational garden space where community members grow food, improve health, learn new skills, invest in their community, and connect with one another including youth at the adjacent Strawberry Mansion High School. The Green Resource Center and Community Garden is developed and maintained in partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, East Park Revitalization Alliance, and Neighborhood Gardens Trust.
The Common Place
The Common Place (TCP) serves as a community hub in Kingsessing. TCP holistically supports children and their families through educational programs, food sovereignty, community collaboration, and a welcoming environment. Support from the CREJ Fund will support TCP in launching The Common Place Market, a fresh-air grocery store offering organic, locally grown produce to residents of Southwest Philadelphia. The Market will serve as an alternative shopping experience for a community that deeply desires access to nutritious, healthy food and a sustainable farm-to-table cooperative.
The U School Inc.
The U School Inc. non-profit raises funding to support enhanced learning and community engagement opportunities for students at the U School, a Philadelphia School District high school. The CREJ Fund will support an after-school garden club administered by The U School Inc.’s Agriculture, Food & Natural Resource (AFNR) Career and Educational Program. The U School Inc. has transformed the school yard into a modest food farm. Through participation in the after-school garden club, AFNR students will grow and share food with neighbors in a more communal way and increase the impact of their growing spaces.
UC Green is the largest community-led tree tenders group in Philadelphia. UC Green has been dedicated to expanding the urban tree canopy since the 90’s, as well as fostering opportunities for civic engagement. Support from the CREJ Fund will help UC Green increase plantings over the next year by working with commercial corridors and landlords. Project activities will include community engagement, data collection, maintenance of established trees, and removal of barriers to tree planting such as tree stumps or broken sidewalks.
Urban Tree Connection
For more than two decades, Urban Tree Connection (UTC) has partnered with residents in Haddington to transition abandoned lots into greening and gardening spaces to address food insecurity, short-dumping, and social isolation. Lots that had been neglected for years are now community assets for recreation and access to growing and healthy foods. Together, these sites comprise a neighborhood food system that annually produces around 4,000 pounds of produce using 100% regenerative growing practices. The food grown is distributed to neighbors through the free door-to-door Food Sovereignty Share program coordinated with West Philly block captains. The CREJ Fund is supporting UTC’s general operations to advance their mission.
VietLead’s mission is to develop culturally-centered and community-driven solutions to improve health, increase sovereignty, and develop Vietnamese leadership in solidarity with other working-class communities of color. VietLead programs include food sovereignty, youth organizing, health navigation and healing, civic empowerment, and community defense. VietLead addresses the root of food injustice through providing intergenerational and culturally affirming education and land access to meet one’s food needs. Support from the CREJ Fund will help VietLead continue its garden-based collaboration with Furness High School and expand the program to adult participants. Programming will include collaborating with three classes to integrate urban agriculture and environmental justice into their curriculum, training students on peer community leadership skills and to maintain the garden, and launching Parent and Adult Health and Environmental Justice Workshops with a free you-pick harvest.