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Greenbelt, Essex County's Land Trust announces it will again participate in a grant of $247,000 from the Massachusetts Service Alliance and the Corporation for National and Community Service to support 20 AmeriCorps members serving in the successful Massachusetts Land Initiative for Tomorrow (MassLIFT) AmeriCorps program. The grant funding is administered through Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust (Mount Grace) in Athol, MA. The AmeriCorps members will serve from September 2013 to August 2014, the program's fourth year.
Greenbelt is wrapping up its first year of experience with the AmeriCorps MassLIFT program, where two local members served in the positions of Community Outreach and Land Stewardship. Cricket Wilbur, of Ipswich, a recent recipient of her PhD in Paleoecology from Antioch University in Keene, NH, has been serving as the Community Outreach Coordinator, working with staff and volunteers to engage residents and community groups in land conservation initiatives. She has organized activities, encouraged citizen science, trained volunteers and planted gardens to connect new audiences with Greenbelt's work.
Newbury resident Danielle Christopher split her AmeriCorps service time as a Land Steward with Greenbelt and the Town of Ipswich Open Space Program. Dani worked to engage citizens in recreational trail development, documented conservation activity and assisted in the expanded implementation of Greenbelt's Osprey Program, which included a live webcam of nesting activity. "My year as an AmeriCorps Land Steward with Greenbelt and the Town of Ipswich has allowed me to share my passion for land conservation by providing the community opportunities to explore new properties, build new trails, and learn about the local flora and fauna. It has been great meeting so many wonderful people who share the same interests as I do and care about the health of Essex County,” said Christopher.
Mount Grace initiated the MassLIFT AmeriCorps program in 2010 with a goal of increasing the capacity of conservation groups across the Commonwealth to meet critical community and regional needs for land conservation. Members serving with this program engage municipal boards, community organizations, volunteers, and youth in a variety of land protection, land stewardship, and conservation education activities. In the program's first two years, MassLIFT members assisted 42 communities with land protection projects, organized 400 outreach and service events, and engaged more than 4,100 volunteers in 21,000 hours of community service. Several alumni have found jobs with land trusts throughout New England.
"MassLIFT is a unique land conservation program,” says Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. “Because of MassLIFT more people are personally experiencing the benefits of conservation, like exercising on the trail being planned for diabetes and other patients at Heywood Hospital in Gardner and learning about farm operations -anytime- on the self-guided interpretive trail at Red Fire Farm in Montague. It is also the best job training program for land conservationists I know of in the country. Sarah Wells is a great example, she grew up locally in the town of Orange, received a degree in Natural Resource Conservation from UMass Amherst, served for two years as a MassLIFT AmeriCorp volunteer, and is now a very effective, full-time Land Conservation Associate at Mount Grace, protecting the place she is from."
MassLIFT AmeriCorps members of all ages serve in one of four positions, each with unique responsibilities and goals: Land Stewardship Coordinators, Community Engagement Coordinators, Regional Conservationist Coordinators, or Service Learning Coordinators. All of the members recruit and manage volunteers, coordinate partnerships, and carry out projects that enhance community efforts to conserve land for wildlife habitat, working farms and forests, water resources, community gardens, and/or parks.
Current Greenbelt AmeriCorps member Cricket Wilbur and Dani Christopher have found the AmeriCorps experience very rewarding. “My service with Greenbelt has provided me opportunities to raise awareness about the important work of land trusts for nature and society not only in my town but all across Essex County” said Cricket Wilbur.
Thirteen organizations will be hosting MassLIFT AmeriCorps members in 2013 - 2014. In addition to Mount Grace, they include: Buzzards Bay Coalition, East Quabbin Land Trust, Essex County Greenbelt Association, Groundwork Lawrence, Hilltown Land Trust, Kestrel Land Trust, North County Land Trust, the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, Sudbury Valley Trustees, and The Wildlands Trust. The Appalachian Mountain Club and Greenagers will be sharing a member serving in Berkshire County. Each host site is required to raise money to match the program's federal funds.
“Greenbelt has greatly benefitted from our experience with the AmeriCorps MassLIFT program this past year. Cricket and Dani's contributions have engaged new audience in our land conservation efforts, and we look forward to continuing the momentum they initiated with two new service members who will join us in the fall, said Ed, Becker, Executive Director.
“Massachusetts has a long history of engaging individuals of all ages and backgrounds in service and volunteerism. The desire to serve and be part of a solution continues to grow each year,” said Emily Haber, CEO of the Massachusetts Service Alliance. “These AmeriCorps members will meet pressing local needs and strengthen our communities as they develop civic and leadership skills that can last a lifetime.”
AmeriCorps engages 80,000 Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to meet critical needs. Members serve through more than 14,000 organizations in rural and urban communities throughout the nation. Among other accomplishments, AmeriCorps members last year mobilized 3.4 million community volunteers, and tutored, mentored or served more than 3.5 million disadvantaged youth. Individuals can learn about available opportunities and apply online by visiting AmeriCorps.gov.
Anyone interested in learning more about AmeriCorps positions with MassLIFT can find further information at mountgrace.org/masslift-americorps. The program aims to fill all twenty positions by August 16th.
AmeriCorps Position Descriptions
Since 1961, Greenbelt has been working with local individuals, families, farmers and communities to protect the farmland, wildlife habitat and scenic vistas of Essex County. Greenbelt has protected ovey 15,000 acres of local land and has had a direct role in 75% of all land conserved in the last decade. For more information about Greenbelt programs visit www.ecga.org or call 978-768-7241.
82 Eastern Avenue
PO Box 1026
Essex, MA 01929
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Greenbelt thanks the photographers whose work is featured prominently on our website: Jerry Monkman, Dorothy Monnelly, Adrian Scholes, David Alden St. Pierre & Neil Ungerleider