Grant Will Help Maintain Desert While Training Workforce

April 20, 2021

Grant Will Help Maintain Desert While Training Workforce

Although Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 each year, many people are doing the necessary work to maintain the Earth’s precious resources all year long. One of these groups is the Urban Conservation Corps (UCC), which received a Coachella Valley Spotlight Grant this month from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation.

“Our programs not only help maintain desert trails and terrain, they teach employable skills and independent living,” said Sandy Bonilla, who founded Urban Conservation Corps with her late husband Bobby Vega. “These funds will help with job placement and other case management that can benefit young people who need redirection in their lives.”

UCC’s Workforce Employment Training Program trains up to 75 people annually under the umbrella of the nonprofit Southern California Mountains Foundation (SCMF). Participants are 18-25 years old, from throughout the Coachella Valley including the cities of Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Coachella, Mecca, and members of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe in Thermal. Many of those hired come from historically oppressed communities, are former offenders or have troubled backgrounds, but UCC is focused on the positive youth development that is possible through its programs. Personnel work 24-29 hours a week and earn $14 per hour. Assignments include removing the invasive species tamarisk and cleaning the area’s portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as clearing illegally dumped waste tires on public lands.

“By training in a hands-on, goal-oriented environment, Urban Conservation Corps has found a great way to accomplish two things at once,” said Catharine Reed, Vice President of Charitable Programs for the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation.

On Earth Day 2021, ten recently hired interns will be inducted into a new program with UCC. The Environmental Leaders Program is training people, ages 21-24, in specific areas of environmental conservation that could lead to future skilled management positions, such as park rangers. The interns will work 29 hours a week and receive $14 per hour for this specialized training, made possible, in part, by the Berger Foundation grant.

“UCC is giving young people an exceptional purpose with the possibility to improve their lives, while also improving our trails and outdoor habitats,” said Jerry Upham, General Manager of Gulf California Broadcast Company, which owns and operates KESQ News Channel 3 and KPSP CBS Local 2.

Through the Coachella Valley Spotlight partnership with the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and News Channel 3, Urban Conservation Corps was featured on News Channel 3 programming, in public service announcements and on kesq.com throughout April. For more information about the organization, visit www.scmf.org or call (909) 890-0400.