CAMDEN, NJ— A Camden nonprofit just received a huge boost from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help cleanup and prevent illegal dumping in the City of Camden.
On Thursday, the EPA announced it awarded $120,000 in funding to the Center for Family Services through the 2018 Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program.
The CFS was one of 10 organizations nationwide selected to receive a total of $1.2 million in funding from the EPA.
The money will be used by the CFS’ PowerCorps Camden, a team of individuals in Camden between the ages of 18 and 26 whose mission is to help solve environmental issues in the community, respond to reports of illegal dumping through Camden Reports, a website where Camden residents can report illegal dumping
PowerCorps Camden members and staff will work directly with the Camden Collaborative Initiative (CCI), a partnership of governmental, nonprofit, private and community-based groups which established Camden Reports, to receive training and clean up illegal dumping incidents.
In addition, PowerCorps Camden members will host community events raising awareness of illegal dumping, promote the Camden Reports website, receive training, hold school presentations and distribute informational flyers and brochures on illegal dumping.
According to CFS Chief Operating Officer Merilee Rutolo, PowerCorps Camden will also measure the tonnage of debris removed to track how much it cleans up over the course of the two-year grant period.
"With this grant, this going to really help leverage (Camden Reports) and help make it more robust and get it off the ground," Rutolo said. "We’re doing a lot community education and outreach to really get the word out so that the residents can be more engaged in it, because they have to be aware of it in order to utilize it.
Rutolo continued, "For folks to realize that if they do use it, its not just reporting it — but now we have this mechanism in place, as a result of this grant, that something can be done about it. Not only by alerting the authorities to hopefully prevent it in the future, but so that we can get it cleaned up much more faster as well."
The project, “Community Engagement Partnerhsip to Reduce Illegal Dumping in Camden,” will focus on the Lanning Square, Bergen Square, Centerville, Liberty Park and Downtown Camden neighborhoods.
In addition to PowerCorps Camden and Camden Collaborative Initiative, other project partners include Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Camden County Police Department, Camden Lutheran Housing, City of Camden and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.
“The hazards caused by illegal dumping are real, and raising public awareness and helping the community to become directly involved, are critical steps toward eliminating this environmental justice issue,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez in a statement. “This project trains young Camden residents and empowers the community to combat illegal dumping, improving the environment and quality of life in Camden.”
PowerCorps Camden was launched in 2015 in partnership with the City of Camden under the National Governor and Mayor’s Initiative. To be eligible to become a member, one must be between 18 and 26 years old, a Camden City resident, have a high school diploma or equivalent and be able to work 40 hours per week for six consecutive months.
Members receive training in water quality, stormwater management, green infrastructure, and other green initiatives; life skills training; a biweekly living allowance of $500; health insurance; childcare; an education award of $2,960, payable to either a lender or educational institution following successful completion of six month term of service; forbearance on current student loans during the term of service; and transition support following six month service term to assist with post-secondary education, continuing national service, and/or securing meaningful work in career-related fields.
Rutolo said that there are anywhere from 23 to 30 PowerCorps Camden members for each six-month cohort.