Greencorps Chicago is a green industry job-training program for Chicago residents with barriers to employment. Their mission is to train local residents for work in a variety of fields related to the environment and sustainability. In addition to hands-on training for jobs from horticulture to carpentry, Greencorps Chicago trainees can pursue professional certifications to build their qualifications for advanced positions.
Operation Better World, a community engagement initiative between Ford Motor Company Fund and area Ford dealers, has just donated a 2013 Transit Connect to Greencorps to help Greencorps Chicago realize its goals and transport trainees and supplies to community gardening, landscaping, ecological restoration and other program-related projects in the Chicagoland area.
“We are extremely grateful for Ford’s commitment to the environment and their generous investment in our neighborhoods,” says Geoff Deigan, president, WRD Environmental. “Their partnership with the Greencorps program is improving both the quality of life and land in our communities across Chicago.”
But Greencorps is doing more than changing our city; it’s changing lives.
Meet Wendell Sanford, a Greencorps Chicago trainee whose life has been altered by and through the opportunities afforded through his training. Wendell and his colleagues been given an opportunity to learn important, transferable job skills that empower them to help make the city a better, greener, more beautiful place to live and work and, more importantly, inspire hope for their futures.
Wendell told us what it was like working at Greencorps, and why he’s excited about his future.
- Describe a typical day for you training at Greencorps? What job skills have you learned?
Our team does all sorts of projects around Chicagoland including ecological restoration of our forest preserves, landscaping along the expressways, carpentry, and planting trees for schools around the area to name a few. I’m so grateful for all the skills I’ve picked up. In just five months, I’ve been licensed in pesticides, handling and disposing of hazardous materials, chain saw and chipper training, flagging, OSHA, defensive driving. I’ve received every certification and license that Greencorps offers.
- What is your proudest achievement at Greencorps?
I’m most proud of a project we’re working on right now with the Chicago Department of Transportation. We’re beautifying the landscapes in the medians from State Street over to Lake Michigan and picking up waste. It’s really making a difference and making the city look so much better! Being a part of this project has made me realize that I have a talent for landscaping and I’m really interested in this field.
- How has the job changed from when you first started training with Greencorps?
Since I’ve earned all the certifications, I’ve gained so much knowledge that I am able to help a lot more when our team is out in the field. I’m more of a leader to the crew – they ask me questions and I’m able to help them. I might still be a trainee, but now I can handle anything they put in front of me.
Another big change is that when I first started, we only had large industrial vehicles to transport our team and our equipment to job sites. It was difficult because we couldn’t get into certain lanes on the expressways or drive our trucks on Lake Shore Drive. But Ford Motor Co. just donated a 2013 Ford Transit Connect vehicle to Greencorps, so we’ve been able to get all our people and equipment loaded in one vehicle, and we can get to the job sites faster. It’s been amazing to have a dependable vehicle so that we can continue doing our work as efficiently as possible. I know all the other trainees are really grateful, too.
- What do you plan to do after graduation?
After I graduate from Greencorps in January, I’ve realized I love this work so much I plan to start my own landscaping company. I’m so passionate about beautification and green practices, and I feel that I can use what I’ve learned at Greencorps to have my own business. I would like to take some college classes and continue training and furthering my skills in green, sustainable practices, too, but opening my own business is my first priority, and I can’t wait!
- How has training at Greencorps changed your life or your outlook on the green movement?
Before I worked at Greencorps, I didn’t know much about the green movement. Now I’ve learned how certain things can save energy and make the environment healthier and more sustainable. It’s all about learning how things work, and how harmful the things we constantly use can be to the environment. Usually, there’s a better choice we can make that will help the environment. Learning at Greencorps was a breath of fresh air. It helped me, day by day, do my part to make the air and the environment better.