Thanks to a large grant provided by the Gifford Foundation, the Onondaga Earth Corps (OEC), which began on the Southside in 2004, has been a big success in brightening up neighborhoods and training local youth. Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) has worked closely with the Southside Interfaith’s Southside Neighborhood Action Group (SNAG) and professional landscaper Eli MacDonald to ensure a successful youth program. OEC youth maintain properties for those unable to, plant and care for new trees, work on the Southside Garden (at the corner of Colvin and State Streets in Syracuse) and undertake volunteer service projects.
CCE’s long term goal has been to expand the Corps, which it sees as an essential community resource. Onondaga Earth Corps members learn many practical skills and have opportunities to mentor new participants. During the summer of 2008 the Southside Earth Corps took a group of Westside youth under its wing to work on several of the neighborhood’s Green Space Committee activities. The kids cleaned up Near Westside neighborhood homes by mowing lawns and clearing weeds, and planted over twenty trees.
During the winter of 2008/2009 Onondaga Earth Corps began a series of workshops designed to develop and prepare a new crew of youth on the Near Westside in the spring of 2009. The workshops provided necessary information to train new staff and youth with job readiness skills, watershed management skills, urban forestry skills, safety awareness and financial literacy.