AmeriCorps Members Contributing to Protecting Western North Carolina for Generations to Come 

Preserving the mountain ecology and prioritizing environmental education through building community capacity in Western NC

In the Western region of North Carolina, three Resilience Corps NC members are serving local communities. Through environmental education programs, land conservation efforts, promoting sustainable agriculture practices and interpretive hiking events, these members are actively assisting the needs of Western North Carolina at a local community level.  

With CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects that nonprofits and local government/agency partners involved in the program hold to benefit North Carolina.   

Evidence of Resilience in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Lauren Howard: Green River Preserve  

Lauren Howard serves as an Environmental Educator at Green River Preserve. Green River Preserve is nearly 4000 acres of protected land in Cedar Mountain, NC that is home to a summer camp and field trip site. Lauren grew up attending summer camps at Green River Preserve and was also a camp counselor while she was completing her undergraduate degree.  

Lauren is proud to serve as GRP’s AmeriCorps member to educate children and assist farm tasks on the property, especially since she has a previous connection to the organization. Lauren focuses most of her time on the KALE Program, Kid’s Agricultural Learning Experience, updating the curriculum and creating environmental education-themed activities to immerse students in the natural world. The program allows children to have hands-on experience in learning about agricultural practices, environmental conservation and an introduction to the diverse ecology of Western North Carolina. 

Gina Patton: Balsam Mountain Trust

Gina Patton serves as the Education Outreach Coordinator for Balsam Mountain Trust in Sylva, NC, where she oversees public-facing environmental education programs. Balsam Mountain Trust is a part of Balsam Mountain Preserve, a private residential area in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Balsam Mountain Trust aims to create environmental stewards with a focus on preserving the ecology found among the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Throughout her service year, Gina has achieved significant milestones, including recruiting and supervising an animal care volunteer and delivering various educational initiatives such as the Adopt-A-School program and ecoEXPLORE programs to Title One schools and county libraries. 

 She has also conducted interpretive hikes and hosted school field trips, showcasing her dedication to environmental education. Currently, Gina is focused on planning the 7th annual Bird Festival to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day. Gina enjoys leading interpretive hikes at the local public park to educate the public on the local wildlife. A highlight of her role includes engaging children in hands-on experiences, as depicted in the attached image where she is seen allowing kids to interact with Orville, the corn snake, during an Adopt-A-School program. 

Jessica Blackburn: Highland-Cashiers Land Trust 

Jessica Blackburn serves as an Environment Educator at Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust (HCLT) in Highlands, NC. HCLT focuses on preserving the Soutern Appalachians through the conservation of wetlands, forests and vistas. At HCLT, Jessica plays a pivotal role in organizing and planning after-school programs, coordinating community events, managing social media, and fostering connections with local schools and community members.  

Jessica has assisted in waterway preservation through her collaboration with Environmental Quality Institute (EQI) in Asheville to collect water samples at HCLT’s public access property, Brushy Face. Once more cumulative data has been analyzed, Jessica plans to hold community events for locals to get educated on the health of their streams. 

Additionally, Jessica has facilitated pottery programs in partnership with a local K-12 school to have pottery programs that educate students on how the Cherokee people have used and use clay to make functional pottery.  

She has also pursued personal development opportunities by completing a chainsaw course and making progress toward an environmental educator certificate. Currently, Jessica is spearheading two major projects—a bioblitz and a partial eclipse watch party—and has committed to staying for a second term with Resilience Corps NC at HCLT to see through her ongoing projects.  

The Future of Resilience in Western North Carolina 

Western North Carolina is a large asset of what makes North Carolina so enchanting and ecologically diverse. Protecting the land along and past the Blue Ridge Parkway is crucial to ensuring that future generations can view the vast landscapes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Through the service of AmeriCorps members that build capacity at the local community level, active progress is being made towards prioritizing conservation and education in Western NC.  

Building Resilience in Central North Carolina

Diving into the service work of AmeriCorps members advancing Central North Carolina community resilience

In the Piedmont region of North Carolina, thirteen Resilience Corps NC members are serving their local communities and supporting their resilience goals. Members are building capacity in their respective communities through environmental education measures, litter mitigation events and studies, increasing access to locally grown foods, and protecting various waterways and mitigating urban heat. Together with our partners, CTNC is utilizing AmeriCorps service to create a collaborative network tackling the needs of numerous communities across the state.  

Through CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects of our conservation nonprofits and local government agency partners to benefit North Carolina.   

Members Building Capacity in Central North Carolina

Austin Duncan: Central Pines Regional Council  

Austin Duncan is serving as the Stormwater Education Coordinator for Central Pines Regional Councill. Austin has made significant strides in community outreach and environmental education, having reached over 1700 individuals across 16 different communities through direct educational efforts. As a participant in the NC Stream Watch Ambassadors Cohort, he has begun integrating its curriculum into his teaching plans. Austin has spearheaded the planning efforts for Regional Creek Week 2024, a weeklong series of events aimed at fostering connections between communities and their local waterways. One of the highlights of the regional event is the Wandering Water Map, a live photo map where participants can share their significant bodies of water. 

Tanya Balaji: Keep Charlotte Beautiful 

Tanya Balaji is the AmeriCorps Engagement and Education Specialist for Keep Charlotte Beautiful, a city program offering waste reduction, litter prevention, and community beautification/greening projects and services for residents in Charlotte, North Carolina. As an AmeriCorps member, Tanya conducts outreach to various stakeholders in the community, with a focus on engaging with underserved and non-traditional communities. Some programs she focuses on are promoting and improving are as follows: Adopt-a-City-Street program, Adopt-a-Bus-Stop program, Corridors of Opportunity cleanups, Bee City events, America Recycles Day events, environmental education programming for elementary school students, and so much more! 

As an individual with a passion for research and development, Tanya’s main project at KCB is currently helping the City of Charlotte pilot a litter study, in partnership with UNC Charlotte. The goal for this study is to analyze the composition and distribution of litter across the City, with the goal of using the data to determine what actions we can take to create a more sustainable future in Charlotte. This project will sample 381 road segments across the City and will take place with the help of volunteers. The study launches on April 1st, 2024, and will continue until January 2025.  

Amongst organizing other regular programming events such as organizing litter cleanups and Bee City events to celebrate pollinators, Tanya is currently in the process of helping a local Title 1 elementary school create a beautification project to bring the community together, as part of the Great American Cleanup, a national initiative to beautify the environment and bring awareness to environmental stewardship.  

For the remainder of her service term, Tanya is excited to continue growing the program and conducting outreach to underserved communities. She’s also hoping to spend more time engaging with the younger generation, to help shape them into environmental stewards who care for both their community and environment. 

Cindy Rassi: El Futuro  

Cindy Rassi serves as the Community Engagement and Therapeutic Green Space Coordinator for El Futuro. El Futuro provides support and services to the Latino community in North Carolina. The presence of green spaces is known to boost mental health, encouraging the need for these areas in the El Futuro property. Cindy’s initiative to enhance these areas allows for the community to gain a deeper connection and understanding to the natural world and conservation for our environment. 

 Cindy has achieved remarkable milestones during her service year, notably by boosting participation and programming, resulting in the doubling of participants and forging new collaborations with community agencies. Cindy is engaged in coordinating several upcoming events at her host site, including “Sembremos Juntos” (during Creek Week), “Un Dia a la Vez” (one day at a time), Niñitos de la Naturaleza (parent-child group-exposing kids to nature) and an Earth Day celebration for the community. Additionally, Cindy is conducting a Green Space Survey in the community. She is particularly intrigued about exploring the impact of Therapeutic Green Space on the mental health of the Latino community and crafting events and programs that address the community’s needs based on their input.  

Sabrinah Hartsell: North Carolina Zoo  

Senior Member

Sabrinah Hartsell is a senior member of Resilience Corps NC, with this service year being her second year serving at the North Carolina Zoo. Sabrinah is the Nature Rock’s, the NC Zoo’s afterschool programming, & Virtual Programming Assistant with a focus on serving those who are historically undeserved. Sabrinah provides nature connection, climate change, and STEM career programs for about 450 children.  

Through collaborations with the Museum of Art, We Thrive Together, and other local organizations, Sabrinah assists in providing accessible programming to adults with developmental and vision disabilities.

Another role of Sabrinah’s is to help manage the North Carolina Zoo’s educational Facebook group called “Adventures in EdZOOcation”. With this page, she develops content for the group, coordinates with the Zoo’s communications team about the analytics of the group and determines how they use the group to educate online participants. Sabrinah is very passionate about the collaborative work she does with these communities and is very proud of how far the programs have come. 

Christopher Perdomo: Piedmont Environmental Alliance  

Serving as an Enviornmental Educator at the Piedmont Environmental Alliance (PEA), Christopher coordinates scheduling for Education Programs, engages in community event tabling, recruits and manages volunteers, and teaches 7th and 9th-grade students about Energy and Water conservation. Noteworthy accomplishments during his service year include educating over 2000 Title 1 students on water and energy conservation. Christopher also organized an Environmental Debate Tournament for high school students involving 93 participants from 12 different schools across three counties.  

Christopher is focused on organizing the Environmental Debate Tournament Finals as part of PEA’s Free Earth Day Fair celebration. He finds great excitement in regularly visiting classrooms and witnessing the students’ enthusiasm for science class, making it a highlight of his service year. 

Haley Bock: Piedmont Triad Regional Council  

Senior Member

Haley Bock is a senior member of Resilience Corps NC and is serving her second year of service at the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) as an Environmental Educator. Haley plays a crucial role in implementing environmental science programs at Title 1 schools, covering topics such as soil and water conservation, freshwater ecosystems, and the water cycle.  

Throughout the service year, Haley has made significant achievements, having educated over 2,300 individuals through stormwater education initiatives and nearly completing her Environmental Educator Certification.  

Currently, her focus is on forming an environmental committee to promote sustainable practices within the PTRC office, organizing Creek Week programs, and scheduling summer reading programs. She eagerly anticipates receiving her Environmental Educator Certificate, marking a milestone in her service year journey. 

Rae Cohn: Hub Farm    

Rae serves as an Environmental Educator focused on K-12 field trips, internships, and summer camps at the Durham Public Schools Hub Farm. Rae is also a steward of the Hub Farm’s 30-acre property, which includes a garden, orchard, wetland and forest habitats, with chickens, rabbits, an apiary, farm cat, and plenty of wildlife.  

Rae also facilitates several community collaborations including a tri-yearly plant giveaway for school and community gardens in Durham (UCAN, El Futuro, etc.), the Farm to School initiative with the Durham County department of Public Health, a collaboration with the Latin American Consortium of Duke/UNC, and a collaboration with the Resilience Curriculum project at Duke/NCSU.  

Rae has developed several programs and collaborations in a way that the Hub Farm did not have capacity for before, including developing curriculum and programming for field trips (resilience curriculum, soil testing, water quality, shad in the classroom), new and increased community partnerships (an afterschool program at Eno Valley Elementary, 4H club with NC State Cooperative Extension, and partnerships with UCAN, El Futuro, F2S, LAGC), and stewarding our non-human community with new seed solicitations, culturally relevant heirloom crops (indigenous foods, and geography themed beds for LAGC and African-American foodways), a new vermicomposting system, bunny ramps, mobile chicken coop, and fish aquaculture capacity. 

Rae is also undergoing a fisheries restoration project with the NC Museum of Natural History called “Shad in the Classroom”, where they rear juvenile fish larvae to release in the Neuse River and is hosting a fishing event at the end of April to celebrate aquatic foods. Rae is excited to use these resources to support their local community’s growth, both through food and environmental education as well as physical garden resources.  

Anna Behnke: Conservation Trust for North Carolina 

Anna is serving as the Communications & Outreach Associate for Conservation Trust for North Carolina. Anna plays a collaborative role as both a Resilience Corps NC member and working closely with CTNC staff on communications needs and outreach measures.  

Throughout her service term, Anna has travelled throughout the state to meet with fellow Resilience Corps NC members. During these trips, Anna learns more about each member’s role and gathers content to share with CTNC’s supporters and beyond. Anna also assists in creating the content for CTNC’s blogs, website, emails and social media platforms.  

From the mountains to the coast, Anna enjoys travelling to display the diverse service contributions from the members in her cohort and the climate resilience work of CTNC. She has visited with Lauren Waibel from NC Coastal Land Trust, Tykia Lewis from the Town of Princeville, Lauren Howard from Green River Preserve, Tanya Balaji from Keep Charlotte Beautiful, Hannah Nystrom from Cape Fear River Watch and Rae Cohn from The Hub Farm so far.  

Communicating the interworking of Resilience Corps NC is crucial to show others the monumental strides in community resilience that occur from the presence of AmeriCorps member placements.  

Ellen Davis: Central Pines Regional Council  

Ellen Davis is serving as a Community Development AmeriCorps Member at the Central Pines Regional Council. Ellen is actively involved in assisting low-income homeowners within Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Lee, Moore, and Johnston Counties. Her role within the Housing Focus Area entails connecting homeowners with repair resources, conducting research on housing-related topics, and administering housing grant funding.  

Throughout her service year, Ellen has contributed to streamlining and standardizing home repair processes, facilitating quicker service delivery to homeowners. She has also successfully connected applicants with various resources to address diverse needs, including temporary space heaters, grants for children with autism, and domestic violence support groups.  

Currently, Ellen is managing six different projects aimed at serving approximately 70 homeowners across four counties, with repair costs ranging from $8,000 to $40,000. One of the most rewarding aspects of her service is witnessing the positive impact of completed repair projects on homeowners’ physical and mental well-being. Ellen finds joy in seeing “After” photos of completed projects, signifying tangible improvements in people’s lives. 

Grace Sigmon: North Carolina Zoo 

Senior Member

Grace is a senior member of Resilience Corps NC and is in progress of her second service year at the North Carolina Zoo. Grace serves as the Natural Areas Conservation Educator, where she educates the public on the biodiversity of North Carolina. Her endeavors include leading guided hikes for local groups in Asheboro, conducting environmental education programs for after-school groups, and participating in wildlife surveys at the Zoo.  

Additionally, Grace contributes to trail and land management projects at the NC Zoo-owned nature preserves. Grace collaborates with NC Zoo staff on citizen science projects such as NestWatch observations and NC Bird Atlas observations, aiming to involve colleagues in conservation efforts and ensure project continuity beyond her service year.  

Grace also assists her supervisor in monitoring salamanders during the breeding season at offsite properties, contributing to species identification and population baseline data. She is passionate about leading guided hikes for after-school groups, partnering with fellow AmeriCorps member Sabrinah Hartsell to offer outdoor experiences to children from the Dream Center after-school program. Grace finds joy in witnessing the children’s enthusiasm for exploring nature trails and eagerly anticipates hosting their group again for future trail programs. 

Eli Haines-Eitzen: Eno River Association

Eli serves as the AmeriCorps Education Program Coordinator at Eno River Association in Durham, NC. Throughout his service year, Eli has developed and implemented over 10 monthly place-based environmental education programs for Title I public schools, private groups, and the general public. Eli has also expanded partnerships and service learning opportunities with other local nonprofits, particularly with Urban Community AgriNomics (UCAN).

Currently, Eli is focused on continuing to develop and lead new programs in schools, preparing for two youth environmental education summer camps. Eli is also assisting in the planning and preparation of the Festival for the Eno, scheduled for July. Additionally, Eli is establishing a citizen science monitoring program to engage volunteers in data collection and inform the Eno River Association’s land management practices. Eli is most excited about participating in EnoFest this year and engaging in all the summer camp activities.

Lulu Zeray: Meals on Wheels Durham

Senior Member

Lula is serving her second AmeriCorps year with Meals on Wheels Durham as the Volunteer Services Associate. Throughout the service year, Lula has achieved significant accomplishments in building the capacity of the volunteer program at Meals on Wheels Durham. Lula created the first ever volunteer satisfaction survey, crafted helpful volunteer training videos, developed a new tracking system for recruitment, and collaborated on the strategic planning process of the volunteer program. Lula also created two comprehensive volunteer programs, with one focusing on leadership development opportunity for volunteers and another program to assist in route coverages.

Currently, Lula is actively involved in implementing the two volunteer programs and is in the process of developing two additional leadership opportunities for volunteers seeking to enhance their professional and personal skills.

The Future of Resilience in Central North Carolina  

As members contribute to building community resilience, the projects of Resilience Corps NC in Central North Carolina will persist and develop through the years to come. The path to a more resilient North Carolina is achieved through enhancing the capacity of communities at a local level.  

Eastern North Carolina AmeriCorps Members Making Great Strides in Community Resilience

From Flood Resilience, Watershed Protection, Community Agriculture and More, ResilienceCorps NC Members are Contributing to the Resilience of Eastern NC 

In Eastern North Carolina, six AmeriCorps service members are serving local communities. Each member is focusing on building community resilience through flood mitigation, coastal land preservation, volunteer coordination, tree planting and watering, community garden construction and implementation, and many other priorities that directly give back to their respective communities.

Through the CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps program, building capacity is more attainable. The placement of members directly contributes to the current and future projects that nonprofits and local government/agency partners involved in the program hold to benefit North Carolina.  

Highlighting AmeriCorps Member’s Service at a Community Level Throughout the Eastern Region of our Resilient State 

Tykia Lewis: The Town of Princeville

CTNC and the Town of Princeville have partnered to host an AmeriCorps member to focus on engaging residents on conservation and community agriculture. Over the past few months, Tykia Lewis has been dedicating most of her time to construction and cultivation of the new community garden in Princeville, NC. Her primary focus revolves around fostering community engagement and imparting knowledge about the significance of local agriculture and the medicinal properties of food.  

After conducting a thorough needs assessment, Tykia organized community meetings to introduce the benefits of community gardening and to distribute fresh produce. The community demonstrated keen interest in the garden and the healing potential of food, actively participating in choosing a name for the garden. Her involvement in the garden’s design and construction has been immensely gratifying, as she values hands-on experiences and the opportunity to contribute to a cause larger than herself.  

This community garden will impact the town and its residents for years to come, serving a key role in removing the barriers to food access that towns like Princeville experience.   

John Sugg: Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments

John Sugg is currently serving five counties served by the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Government (COG)—Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, and Wilson. Each of these counties faces various challenges from chronic flooding and stormwater issues. As part of John’s AmeriCorps service, he will assist the COG with completing flood solutions assessments of nine communities, so they’re better equipped to pursue mitigation and build resilience for possible future flooding events.  

The Golden Leaf Flood Mitigation Grant presents opportunities for communities to address flood-related issues. John has already assisted two communities pursuing a Golden Leaf Flood Mitigation Grant, acknowledging the cumbersome documentation process for rural towns with limited resources and staff capacity.  

Currently, John is working with the community of Gaston to collect photos and data illustrating the impact of rainfall events in the area. Despite receiving only 1-2″ of rain, the area experiences prolonged water accumulation, rendering yards unusable and hazardous areas for days after the rain subsides. This persistent issue, not attributable to hurricanes or other extraordinary events, displays the urgent need for creating interventions to mitigate flooding risks and prevent further damage to communities. 

Hannah Nystrom: Cape Fear River Watch

Hannah Nystrom, stationed at Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW), directs her efforts towards the Burnt Mill Creek watershed in Wilmington, a socially vulnerable and highly recreated area. Spanning approximately seven square miles in downtown Wilmington, the watershed deals with numerous water quality issues such as fecal bacteria contamination, invasive aquatic species, and low dissolved oxygen levels, leading to its inclusion in North Carolina’s 303(d) list for impaired waterbodies. With a population of vulnerable residents in this community, the protection of this watershed is crucial to their wellbeing and the resilience of Wilmington 

The state attorney general’s office awarded CFRW a three-year Environmental Enhancement Grant (EEG) to fund a restoration project aimed at addressing these challenges. Hannah actively engages in the project to ensure project deliverables are completed. She coordinates tree plantings, installs litter mitigation devices in stormwater drains and creeks, and organizes ecotours within the Burnt Mill Creek watershed. One of her most rewarding experiences involves watering native trees planted by over 75 volunteers, an activity she conducts weekly with fellow volunteers, fostering a deep connection with the area she serves. 

Protecting the Burnt Mill Creek Watershed and the surrounding areas allows for members of the community to have easily accessible and beautiful nature areas to fish, explore and recreate in. Preserving areas that foster wildlife and allow for the ecological factors of coastal NC to thrive allows for greater climate resilience.

Lauren Waibel: North Carolina Coastal Land Trust 

In her position at the Coastal Land Trust, Lauren Waibel assumes responsibility for general stewardship, community conservation projects, and overseeing the volunteer program. Recent months have been marked by intensive monitoring of preserves and properties, providing opportunities to observe diverse flora and fauna and leading trail maintenance activities across preserves.  

One particularly significant project involves the restoration of Reaves Chapel A.M.E. Church, a historic landmark with deep cultural and historical roots in southeastern North Carolina’s African American community. Engaging with various organizations and individuals connected to the chapel has been inspiring for Lauren. She recently led a highly successful volunteer day, which saw significant participation, aimed at cleaning up the Reaves Chapel cemetery.  

Lauren’s role has afforded her invaluable insights into the ecosystems, history, and community dynamics of Coastal North Carolina. 

Jordan Pilcher: North Carolina Coastal Land Trust 

In Jordan Pilcher’s role as the Environmental Education and Volunteer Coordinator at NC Coastal Land Trust (NCCLT), she has had the opportunity to lead and continue several projects, many of which were established and set into motion by the previous AmeriCorps member, and now full-time staff member, Bryce Tholen.  

The environmental education program at NCCLT has grown tremendously and Jordan dove into teaching environmental programs across coastal North Carolina. She has been teaching the elementary students along the coast of NC using the curriculum on pollination and pollinators for 3rd graders, carnivorous plants for 4th graders, and longleaf pine ecosystems for 5th graders.  

During the beginning of her term, she spent time editing and updating the curriculum and materials to ensure lessons are interesting and engaging. Jordan has also tabled at several environmental education and community outreach events, growing the Coastal Land Trust’s presence in the Wilmington community and connecting kids with the ecosystems surrounding them. Conducting outreach to the community and their youth is crucial to building long-term conservation stewards who will carry the responsibility of building Wilmington’s resilience for future generations.  

Charlie Robinette: Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments 

Charlie Robinette serves with the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments (KTCOG) where he is dedicated to building connections across the five counties served by the organization. Engaging with various stakeholders in the food sector, ranging from Cooperative Extension and Economic Development to local pantries and non-profits, Charlie aims to understand the region’s dynamics firsthand. He gradually became involved in ongoing projects, such as the Eva Clayton Rural Food Institute’s Advisory Board and Tri-COG FEEDS, a collaborative effort spanning multiple counties and councils. 

In 2020, KTCOG adopted a Regional Food Policy, laying the groundwork for establishing a Regional Food Council. With Charlie’s enhanced capacity, progress towards this goal has accelerated, with plans for the council’s inaugural meeting scheduled for May. Through “Framing Our Food System” conversations across the five counties, Charlie seeks to gather valuable perspectives informing the council’s work and future COG policies and programs. The enthusiasm expressed by community members for his initiatives pushes the potential for lasting impact beyond his tenure with AmeriCorps. 

Charlie finds great satisfaction in food systems work, particularly in the communal aspect where every gathering ensures participants are well-fed, symbolizing the importance of inclusivity and collaboration in building a sustainable future. 

The Future of Resilience in Eastern North Carolina  

Eastern North Carolina is an ecologically diverse region of the state that requires an investment in capacity to combat food insecurity, explore and implement flood mitigation strategies, and continue to preserve coastal land for future generations to enjoy. Between CTNC and our community partners, AmeriCorps members can achieve tangible progress toward achieving goals that build resilience for North Carolina.  

Checking in with Our Resilience Corps NC Partners

As AmeriCorps members are halfway through their service term, tangible evidence of community resilience emerge

CTNC is working alongside our partners to build a network of service throughout North Carolina. The Resilience Service Network brings together the expertise of CTNC, Conserving Carolina, and Conservation Corps NC to leverage the investments of AmeriCorps to build capacity of nonprofits, local governments, and agency partners to achieve resilience.

CTNC’s AmeriCorps program, Resilience Corps NC, has partnered with 20 host site partners to deploy 23 members in service to communities with climate risk and capacity needs. These members are now halfway through their service term, which began in September of last year. With members serving in over forty communities across the state, tangible evidence of community resilience is present.  

How do we select these community partners? CTNC seeks to prioritize community partnerships where a high climate-risk to flood, fire, food insecurity, or urban heat effects is affecting socially vulnerable communities and people throughout North Carolina. Using data assessments found in our Community Resilience Model, a GIS map that pinpoints the communities of NC that could benefit the most from climate change resilience work, we can ensure our AmeriCorps partnerships are delivering on CTNC’s goals to build resilience throughout the state.   

See where our partnerships are growing resilience: 

The Resilience Service Network Case for Support demonstrates the need for additional capacity in vulnerable communities across the state. By building capacity in partnership with local leaders, the work being accomplished by these members will successfully increase the capacity of what each organization can accomplish.  

Resilience Corps NC members have built capacity at each of their host sites, whether it be tree planting, organizing volunteer events, community outreach and engagement, land monitoring, environmental education, climate change education, and many other projects designed to seed future resilience.  

CTNC is proud to champion the movements completed by the Resilience Service Network. Advancing community resilience through building relationships and partnerships is a critical component of all conservation efforts. Having members placed in all regions of the state, Western, Piedmont, Central, Eastern and the Coast, ensures that vulnerable communities are both represented and included in statewide conservation initiatives.  

AmeriCorps Members Honor MLK Jr. Through Service 

Members completed service-based volunteer events to benefit communities across NC  

As we reflect on this past Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we would love to share some of the enriching experiences that our Resilience Corps NC AmeriCorps members enjoyed. Each member dedicated the day to volunteering in honor of Dr. King. The active participation of members was present in service projects aligning with the principles championed by Dr. King, with the common goal of enhancing community resilience. The MLK Day of Service contributes to our local communities across the state and provides an opportunity for our members to learn and reflect on the enduring impact of Dr. King’s teachings.  

CTNC’s AmeriCorps service members Austin Duncan (Central Pines Regional Council), Rae Cohn (The Hub Farm),Hannah Rhodes (American Rivers), Anna Behnke (CTNC), Lauren Howard (Green River Preserve) and Eli Haines-Eitzen(Eno River Association) spent the day in Durham assisting Urban Community Agronomics. UCAN strives to connect the community with sustainable agriculture to combat food insecurity and provide environmental-based education to visitors. During this day of service, volunteers spread mulch, helped build beds for the greenhouse, reclaimed wood among the property along with many other tasks.  

Another member in the Triangle, Ellen Davis (Central Pines Regional Council), spent the day with the repairs program of Habitat for Humanity of Durham. Their group focused on assisting a home impacted by flooding through replacing a waterline. Within their day of service, immense progress was made on an 18” deep trench that will be used with the new waterline.  

In the Piedmont, Tanya Balaji (Keep Charlotte Beautiful), in partnership with her host site, held four litter cleanup events around the city to commemorate Dr. King. With the help of 82 total volunteers, 97 bags of litter were collected, removing roughly 1940 lbs. of litter from impacting the environmental well-being of the streets of Charlotte.   

Cindy Rassi (El Futuro) participated in a day of service held by her host site in partnership with Keep Durham Beautiful. They had 29 adults, and 4 children participate in the MLK Clean-up of the Lakewood Plaza and a Storytime Reading of “Todo el Mundo Cabe Aqui” (“All Are Welcome” in English) for the children. During this day of service, 43 bags of waste, 27bags of recycling items, 1 mattress, 4 tires, and metal scrap were collected by the volunteers.  

In Henderson, member Charlie Robinette (Kerr Tar Regional Council of Governments) joined ACTS of Henderson (Area Christians Together in Service) in a food distribution event. Charlie helped prepare and hand out the warm lunches to members of the community.

In Western NC, member Jessica Blackburn (Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust) joined HCLT staff and volunteers on a litter clean-up at Sunset Rock, one of HCLT’s most populous hiking spots. The event showed how simple it can be to gather and provide service to your community while being a steward for the environment.  

Along the coast of North Carolina, Lauren Waibel and Jordan Pilcher (North Carolina Coastal Land Trust) spent their day cleaning up and removing litter from a local park in Wilmington. They collected trash from Maides Park and Maides Cemetery, a historic African-American Cemetery with graves dating back to the 19th century

As we remember Martin Luther King, it is also essential that we remember the dedication he had to his mission of liberating and uniting all people. To accomplish our mission, we too must dedicate our services to changes we wish to have in the world. 

Learn more about the impact of community partnerships delivered through service.

Introducing the 2023-24 Resilience NC Corps Cohort

We’re delighted to welcome the latest cohort of service members with the Resilience Corps NC program. These members, working at placements across North Carolina, are able to fill in areas of need through their host sites that are connected to various diverse communities, building a resilient North Carolina. Their work includes community outreach, environmental education, and environmental stewardship.

Building a resilient community begins with education and the power of knowledge. Having AmeriCorps members within the communities build capacity within and outside their host sites creates a positive impactful domino effect that will be long lasting after their service terms are over.

Here’s where our 2023-24 AmeriCorps members are serving:

Anna Behnke
Conservation Trust for North Carolina
Austin Duncan
Central Pines Regional Council
Christopher Perdomo
Piedmont Environmental Alliance
Cindy Rassi
El Futuro
Eli Haines Eitzen
Eno River Association
Ellen Davis
Central Pines Regional Council
Regina Patton
Balsam Mountain Trust
Grace Sigmon
North Carolina Zoo
Haley Bock
Piedmont Triad Regional Council
Hannah Rhodes
Keep Durham Beautiful
Jessica Blackburn
Highland Cashiers Land Trust
Jordan Pilcher
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Lauren Howard
Green River Preserve
Lauren Waibel
North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Lula Zeray
Meals on Wheels of Durham
Rachel Cohn
Durham Public Schools Hub Farm
Sabrinah Hartsell
North Carolina Zoo
Stephanie Pipas
North Carolina Zoo
Tanya Balaji
Keep Charlotte Beautiful
Tykia Lewis
Town of Princeville

Learn more about Resilience Corps NC and the work being accomplished for communities through service.

Why We Need the Resilience Service Network

North Carolina has seen an unprecedented investment in building resilience against the effects of our changing climate. Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to statewide flood resiliency modeling efforts, coastal community planning, and more. Billions of additional dollars from federal sources have also been earmarked for climate resilience.

Yet, there is a crucial next step to ensure these projects come to life: activating local community capacity. Communities across North Carolina must be able to take advantage of the information, support, and financial resources made available. CTNC has heard from nonprofit organizations and local leaders that too many communities seem to lack that needed capacity.


To begin to address this vulnerability, CTNC commissioned a study in fall 2022 to gather information and input on what role service programs might play in building community capacity around climate resilience. The resulting Resilience Service Network: Case for Support affirms that existing and new service programs are well-positioned to play a vital role in assisting communities seeking to leverage the climate resilience investments being made. Though, as the study also shows, service in North Carolina must be greatly expanded and substantively changed to realize this potential.


Communities across North Carolina are ready to address the threat of climate change, but they’re hindered by a lack of capacity to mobilize an effective response. The existing service capacity needs to grow, and the activities involved will require greater diversity to respond effectively to community needs. Stakeholders and programs recognized host costs, administrative burdens, member benefits, and high match and project costs as major barriers to implementing a comprehensive service network in the state. The team also found that the state currently offers a patchwork of relevant support that is not commensurate with the scale of the needs of North Carolina’s communities.

Fortunately, North Carolina is slated to receive significant investment in flood prevention, critical infrastructure and transportation, and other projects designed to increase resilience. These investments will provide opportunities to meet the funding levels required to realize this effort at scale. Building on existing planning efforts and financial support, the team identified flood response as an established mechanism to direct service to communities in need.


Based on the findings, this report identifies a set of summary recommendations that reflect the most common themes and opportunities for a statewide resilience service initiative.


What framing or program design steps should be taken to build a stronger service effort in North Carolina.

  • Start With Flood Response
  • Focus on Resilience
  • Localize to Galvanize
  • Reinforce What’s Working
  • Strategically Fill Gaps


What steps might be taken to ensure the effort is well coordinated so it can deliver the greatest impact for the state.

  • Adapt to Thrive
  • Build a Network, not a Program.
  • Emphasize Catalytic Over Functional Outcomes
  • Follow the Money / Unlock the Potential

Resilience Service Network Concept

What operational and funding design will be required to achieve success at a statewide scale.

  • Operational Design
  • Funding

While this study is a seed of an idea, we see great potential in service programs to help alleviate community capacity concerns, build a resilience-oriented workforce, and maximize additional investments in the state’s resilience. North Carolina is primed to lead the nation on creative and innovative solutions for climate action.

Alongside CTNC’s Resilience Corps NC, we’re excited to welcome Conserving Carolina’s AmeriCorps Project Conserve and Conservation Corps North Carolina as founding partners in building this statewide network. 

To connect with us on the Resilience Service Network, inquire about joining as a partner organization or host site, or learn more about how service programs can work in your community, email americorps@ctnc.org.

AmeriCorps Spotlight

Conservation Trust for North Carolina offers Resilience Corps NC, a national service program of AmeriCorps, designed to support capacity building for resilience, environmental education, and stewardship and outreach that builds bridges between conservation organizations and the local communities they seek to serve. Meet a few of the AmeriCorps members making a difference across the state.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Lance Nathaniel
Lance Nathaniel promotes intersectionality and community engagement with Resilience Corps NC at Keep Charlotte Beautiful. Get to know more about Lance’s work.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Grace Sigmon
As the AmeriCorps Natural Areas Conservation Educator Grace Sigmon helps to expand the North Carolina Zoo’s education, recreation, and conservation programs in Asheboro. Get to know more about Grace and her work.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Bryce Tholen
Bryce Tholen makes connections with coastal communities and lands serving with Resilience Corps NC at North Carolina Coastal Land Trust in Wilmington. Get to know more about Bryce.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Emily Taylor
Emily Taylor teaches future generations about Western NC species and how to protect them, serving with Resilience Corps NC at Balsam Mountain Trust in Sylva. Get to know more about Emily.

AmeriCorps Spotlight: Bryce Tholen

Bryce Tholen makes connections with coastal communities and lands serving with Resilience Corps NC at North Carolina Coastal Land Trust in Wilmington.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a degree in environmental science, Bryce continues to share his appreciation for the outdoors with others. He serves as Environmental Educator and Volunteer Coordinator at the Trust.

In his position, Bryce plans and presents environmental education in classroom opportunities, programs and events. He also organizes, leads and promotes volunteering opportunities and assists the stewardship team in projects.

Working with Coastal Land Trust helped Bryce get out of his comfort zone. He learned about how nonprofits function and has earned more experience presenting to an audience. “I have learned a lot about public speaking and confidence,” says Bryce.

Educating the public on restoring and protecting the environment comes with its challenges. Conservation organizations face smaller staff and budgets while working across a large area. However, that doesn’t detract from the fulfilling successes when communities come together to protect our planet.

One of the biggest takeaways from the job is the importance of collaboration when expanding conservation efforts. “Partnerships and collaborations lead to the most beneficial projects for a community. People have to be willing to work together to achieve common goals. Many projects in the conservation field cannot be accomplished without the partnering of multiple entities.”

Beyond AmeriCorps, Bryce plans to continue to work in conservation. He wants to assist in outreach coordination for nonprofits or state organizations focusing on land and water protection. We can’t wait to see what he’ll achieve!

Resilience Corps NC celebrates new partnerships

The Resilience Corps NC program recently launched its latest cohort of service members who will work in communities to deliver climate change, community resilience, capacity building, and environmental education services to host sites across the state. In order to make this the most successful year yet, CTNC has added and promoted staff, and welcomed 17 service members including four who have returned for their second year of service.

Here’s where our 2022-23 Corps members are serving:

Balsam Mountain Trust
Emily Taylor
Cape Fear River Watch
Kristen Rhodes
El Futuro
Maiya Garrett-Peters

Eno River Association
Audrey Vaughn

Grandfather Mountain
Stewardship Foundation
Elizabeth Warfield

Land Trust
Hope Corbin

Keeping Charlotte Beautiful
Lance Nathaniel

Keeping Durham Beautiful
Eleanor Dilworth

Meals on Wheels Durham
Lula Zeray

North Carolina Coastal
Land Trust
Madison Woodard
Bryce Tholen

North Carolina Zoo
Grace Sigmon
Mawadda Al-Masri
Sabrinah Hartsell

Piedmont Triad
Regional Council
Haley Bock

The Regional Stormwater
Partnership of the Carolinas
Kelly Hendrix (Norris)

Triangle J Council of Governments
Taylor Weddington

Read about more of our staffing and member updates below!

This year, Nick DiColandrea returns to CTNC in a new role – Climate Strategies Officer. In this new position, Nick will work with the leadership team to ensure Resilience Corps NC members are addressing community capacity and climate change challenges in all communities we serve. Learn more about Nick and why he’s committed to addressing climate change through CTNC’s mission and partnerships.

Please join us in extending congratulations to Michaella Kosia, who was recently promoted to AmeriCorps Program Director. Michaella will lead the Resilience Corps NC program by supporting host site supervisors and their members coordinating trainings, planning cohort connection events, building relationships, and strategizing other best practices for member sustainability. Michaella brings to this role a unique public health background where she worked to address health disparities amongst marginalized communities. Our partners and members are excited to work with Michaella in this new leadership role. Get to know Michaella and her passion for community-focused service work.

Credit: Bisi Cameron Yee

As part of our commitment to working alongside community partners to achieve resilience, CTNC and the Environmental Defense Fund will sponsor three additional members to work with community leaders with the Town of Princeville, the Lumbee Indian Tribal Council in Lumberton, and The Orchard at Altapass in Little Switzerland. These members will be focused on increasing community capacity, supporting local food systems through community gardening, and engaging in community outreach through a lens of climate change and land stewardship. Learn more about our Resilience Corps NC program.

Resilience Corps NC is still recruiting for the 2022-23 cohort!

Click here to explore opportunities and learn how to apply.