This is the fourth in a series of blogs celebrating grant projects funded by our Clean Air Act regulation with the owners of the ED Edwards coal-fired power plant outside of Peoria, Illinois. The settlement calls for the plant to close by the end of 2022 and makes $ 8.6 million available to local projects in skills training, lung health, energy efficiency, solar energy and electrification of buses. Each blog features the excellent work one of the facility’s grantees does to promote public health and quality of life in the Peoria, Illinois area.
PeoriaBody, an Americorps green infrastructure training and preparation program in Peoria, Ill., increased its membership allowance from $ 6.25 per hour to $ 10 per hour thanks to a grant from Edwards Settlement Fund. PeoriaCorps’ six-month program focuses on professional skills through a series of professional development opportunities, including site visits, career path presentations, and trades and apprenticeship presentations. PeoriaCorps participants, called “members”, can also earn a nationally recognized degree through the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP). Almost 80% of PeoriaCorps members’ time is spent on “active duty”: working outdoors on maintaining and improving green infrastructure, such as weeding, removal of fall and fall debris. winter, tree planting and garbage collection, all over town.
PeoriaCorps was born out of a need to respond Combined sewer overflows (OSC) in the City. Like many older cities across the country, Peoria relies on combined sewer systems to manage both its wastewater and stormwater. During rainstorms, excess stormwater drains into the City’s combined sewers, raising sewage water and dumping garbage and sewage into local rivers and streams. Because these overflows contain untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials and debris, they present major water pollution and public health problems for the hundreds of cities across the country with combined sewer systems.
Instead of installing a large and expensive underground pipe system to manage its stormwater runoff, Peoria chose to focus on improving and expanding its green infrastructure as a solution to its CSO problem. Green infrastructure includes a variety of water management practices that capture, filter and reduce stormwater runoff. For Peoria, expanding green infrastructure means creating more permeable surfaces, including native plants, grasses and trees, in the areas the city is responsible for maintaining. The expansion of green infrastructure ensures that when the rain falls on the city, more of it seeps into the ground instead of flowing into the sewer system and contributing to CSOs.
PeoriaCorps helps meet the city’s green infrastructure goals by contributing to the maintenance, improvement and expansion of the green infrastructure system. In doing so, PeoriaCorps members gain experience working in the green economy and develop specialist knowledge in the areas of landscaping and stormwater management which they can use to gain professional qualifications and start a career in green infrastructure works.
In addition to helping solve the city’s stormwater issues, PeoriaCorps also confronts the issue of subjugation in black communities and the impacts it has on motivation. Jamila Wilson, Director of PeoriaCorps, is passionate about building confidence and self-esteem in PeoriaCorps members. Jamila has worked in workforce development for 20 years and has found that building confidence is an essential first step in moving forward in other areas, including job preparation. This is especially important for PeoriaCorps members, who are predominantly young black Peorians from neighborhoods disproportionately affected by unemployment and poverty. Jamila often talks about the idea of self-efficacy: “When you engage in something difficult, instead of giving up, you keep going. PeoriaCorps staff work hard to make sure they are aware of their members’ lived experiences and past traumas and to help them recognize their successes as progress.
PeoriaCorps members receive a stipend, or “living allowance”, as members of Americorps. If calculated as a salary, this living allowance would be $ 6.25 per hour. This comes close to providing a living wage and, according to Jamila, was often not enough to retain members throughout the six-month engagement. We were delighted to provide grant funds to Edwards Settlement to increase PeoriaCorps member allowances up to $ 10 per hour for the next several years. We hope this will motivate members to register and complete the program and make it easier for them to meet their food, accommodation and other needs.
In the future, Jamila hopes to expand PeoriaCorps and support the formation of a worker cooperative green infrastructure company. Several PeoriaCorps alumni have already expressed an interest in owning their own green infrastructure businesses. Jamila also wants to broaden the scope of PeoriaCorps’s work to incorporate urban agriculture. And of course, PeoriaCorps is consider candidates for its next cohort of members. Young Peorians motivated by their future are encouraged to apply. Since much of the work of PeoriaCorps members takes place in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Peoria, the program prioritizes residents of those neighborhoods, who will be able to keep the work going and defend the green infrastructure in those parts. from Peoria.
Find out more about the other projects funded by the establishment: a solar panel on Peoria Roman Community Center for Arts and Culture; the expansion of an employment assistance program managed by the Peoria Jubilee Ministries; and the electric buses two school districts in the Peoria area have added to their fleet.