In March 2020, Governor Newsom deployed California’s corps to support disaster relief efforts. California’s network of local corps has stepped up to meet the moment, providing a critical range of disaster relief and essential services while continuing to support their corpsmembers’ safety, education, and basic needs.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was established by President Roosevelt in 1933 to provide conservation-focused employment for hundreds of thousands of young people. Today, almost 90 years later, California’s local corps continue to carry this legacy forward.
Innovation, responsiveness and care. These are hallmarks of California’s local conservation corps.
“The Local Conservation Corps was created to help young adults serve their communities’ needs. That’s where you’ll find us – on the frontlines, behind the scenes, wherever we are called.”Nicholas MuellerGreater Valley Conservation Corps
“This type of emergency solidifies the reasoning behind a conservation corps: it’s engagement in something worthwhile and meaningful for the young folks we serve, and there’s nothing more worthwhile than protecting their community.”
– Dan Knapp, Executive Director, Conservation Corps of Long Beach
“We are here by choice. We are here because we want to help our community. To be able to do that, to provide food and help keep the virus from spreading – we are part of history.”
–Jacob Santillan, Sequoia Community Corps
In addition to food distribution and other emergency and essential services, San Jose Conservation Corps has built and is managing emergency shelters to support the homeless population.
“You have young people unloading semi-trucks of diapers, wrapping them and palletizing them to go to a non-profit helping single moms with no other way to provide for their babies – they can say, “During this pandemic, I did something important.”
– Carlos Campero, Los Angeles Conservation Corps
Fire season is upon us and fires don’t care about COVID-19: local corps across the state are continuing to prepare for fire season through fire fuel reduction services.
Conservation Corps North Bay
Sequoia Community Corps supports the elders in their community, disinfecting senior centers, packaging and delivering over 700 meals a week, and doing wellness checks.
“Our case managers are checking in with all our corpsmembers at least twice a week, seeing if there are any needs we can fill. We do Safeway runs to pick up food and then distribute those items. We’re also offering twice a week in-person food pantries. We’re figuring out how to do distance learning and mini workshops and helping them find other jobs, get their resumes polished, get all their certificates in place.”
– Monique Hooks, Conservation Corps North Bay
Orange County Conservation Corps partners with local organizations to ensure their community members have easy access to good food.
“We are still taking care of school sites. We make sure the bushes aren’t growing into doorways and trees don’t fall onto buildings. It’s important to keep people’s morale up, for the students to know they’re coming back to the same school they left, not some deserted looking school.”
– Mike Totten, Greater Valley Conservation Corps
Conservation Corps of Long Beach erects industrial tents to serve as temporary medical facilities at the Port of Long Beach.
Like many corps, Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps continues to provide essential e-waste and recycling services, ensuring waste does not accumulate and create new health concerns.
Orange County Conservation Corps teams offer warehouse support and traffic control services at the Honda Center in Anaheim, where more than 4 million pounds of food have been distributed to over 800,000 residents.
“It’s not just about the environment. It’s about people.”
– Sharleece Bourne, Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps
Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps reopens its Recycling buy back center, allowing the public to sell CRV cans and bottles, a significant source of income for many residents in one of the poorest regions of the nation.
“This crisis has elevated our mission and clarified it. It’s not just youth development through conservation. A corpsmember’s development and our environment’s health and wellbeing are interdependent. This synergy will forever guide us on our path to serve.”
– Wendy Butts, CEO, Los Angeles Conservation Corps
“Giving people a box of food eases their anxiety. They will have something to eat today or even through the week, and now they can focus on other things that life throws at them with this pandemic, whether it’s rent, foreclosure, finding another job even. By providing food for people, we’re supporting everyone we can through these difficult times. We’re here to do what we need to do. I don’t feel like a hero; I’m just a person trying to do my job.”
– Kyle Aparicio, Orange County Conservation Corps
“This is what I signed up for. I signed up to serve the most vulnerable young people in my community. I signed up to support a group of passionate people who are committed to making this community safe for everybody, and I signed up to be here in times of need.”
– Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director, Civicorps
“Urban Corps is giving me all the opportunities to work and go to school – even in this situation, they give us homework and assignments, and teachers are available to help. I didn’t lose my dream. I’m a senior and I’m still going to graduate.”
–Mohamad Alsydsnawi, Urban Corps of San Diego
In the News!
Greater Valley Conservation Corps is featured on ABC News’ Essential Heroes series, highlighting the essential work being accomplished, and the transformative power, of local corps service.
“With the pandemic, they needed boots on the ground and I immediately signed up to set up the hospitals. It was something I truly enjoyed. It was really hard work but I understood it would help so many people.”
– Obeth Borjas, corpsmember, Conservation Corps of Long Beach
OCCC Crews continue to assist Orange County Public Works with a full range of crucial infrastructure tasks, including the operation, repair, and maintenance of County wastewater, street, and storm drain facilities and systems.
At Santa Barbara and Santa Maria food banks, people wait for hours to receive food for their families. In partnership with the National Guard, Devon and his team from Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps are there to answer the call.
“I love walking through there and knowing all this good food is going to people who need it. We see little kids. Knowing we can help put some food in their stomach, it feels good. It’s real good.”
-Devon Dorsey, Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps
“Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the segment of society that people mostly want to throw away, are the ones out there trying to help people. Everybody’s written these young people off, yet here they are, working in this terrible environment, trying to improve the lives for people who don’t even know they’re doing it.”
– Shawn Riggins, Director, Fresno EEC
California’s local corps are proud to part of the national Corps Network, committed to strengthening America through service and conservation, and helping young people and their communities to thrive!
“Since joining the corps in February 2020, in just four months, I’ve achieved my high school diploma, I have an apartment, I’m enrolled in college, and I’m working on my driver’s license. I’ve never really worked with the community before; I’ve never had the opportunity to to do something good for someone else or that someone else relies on. Now I’m part of a bigger thing; I have a purpose. This has changed my entire mindset.”
– Clarence Jones, San Jose Conservation Corps+Charter School
Safety Protocols at Conservation Corps North Bay
Local corps are following all the safety protocols, providing protective gear, practicing social distancing, setting up sanitation stations and regularly disinfecting all vehicles, equipment and workspaces.
Constructing Hospital Tents
“We are all working as a team. We all understood why we were there. I’m pretty sure everyone felt excited and proud to be able to help.”
-Julio Castellanos, assistant crew leader, Conservation Corps of Long Beach
“The first day , everyone came back and was super tired. I asked them, “How’s it goin? Is it worth it?” And they said, “ Yes! It’s totally worth it.” They totally latched on to it. This is what it’s about. This is what the Conservation Corps is about. It’s about really helping, for people who really really need it.”
– Keir Klingenberg, Cesar Chavez Environmental Corps
The trainings go on!
To prepare for fire season, Fresno keeps up the training of their Central Valley Forestry Corps.
“Wildfires are insane here; it seems like every year the state of Calfornia is burning. We’re trying to go from suppressing fires and being reactive, to being proactive to prevent the fires from happening. Looking at the trees, the types of grasses – what needs to be removed, how to remove them – that’s the new era of the fire industry.”
-Joshua Soleno, assistant crew leader, Fresno EOC Local Conservation Corps
“This is the type of work we need more of during the pandemic. I feel very rewarded by doing it because it’s what people need right now. A lot of people have lost their jobs, or lost their income for a short amount of time. The cost of living in CA is very, very high. So, whatever we can do to help people help their families and make ends meet, I think is really important.”
-Antonio Valdes-Depena, Orange County Conservation Corps
Drive-Through Graduation at Los Angeles Conservation Corps
Corpsmembers up and down the state graduate high school on time, thanks to their perseverance and to the responsive care of local corps teachers and support services staff.
Powerwashing downtown San Diego
“Right now, washing all the streets is a very important thing because we are cleaning all the sidewalks and sanitizing. It makes a big difference for our city. We wash the trashcans, which is even more important during this quarantine. I feel proud to be helping during this quarantine. It’s making a difference and it feels good because everything is clean, it’s disinfected, and it’s safe for people and the animals too.”
– Ulisses Delgadillo, Urban Corps of San Diego
“Once we got the order in the Governor’s press release, we shared with our corpsmembers that we were deemed as part of the essential workforce and there was a sense of pride. We can do our part. We are not medical professionals, but there are so many other things that have to happen so our community can continue to function.”
– Paula Birdsong, Sacramento Regional Conservation Corps
“We do anything we can to help our elders be safe and healthy during the pandemic. It makes me feel at peace that we can do this and that I’m involved in this type of service.”
– Henrietta, Sequoia Community Corps
“‘Thank you so much for being here,’ is a quote we hear a lot.
– Kyle LaRue, Conservation Corps North Bay