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Initiative teams with two nonprofits to create jobs and opportunity through conservation

AmeriCorps member Erin Crouse to direct 10-month project

altMay 27, 2015 – The N.C. Community Development Initiative has teamed with two conservation groups – The Conservation Fund and Conservation Trust for North Carolina – to develop and test innovative community development projects that advance conservation, workforce development and job creation in underserved urban communities.

The three nonprofits have tapped AmeriCorps member Erin Crouse to direct a 10-month initiative that engages their networks, community groups and public agencies in creating and implementing projects that link and support their common interests.

“I come from a parks and recreation background and was drawn to the idea of trying to bridge gaps between local government agencies and community groups to build meaningful partnerships that have impact,” Crouse said. “This is an opportunity to help three forward-thinking organizations join forces and provide greater value by working together to serve their communities.”

The Initiative has collaborated with these two and other environmental organizations to plan affordable housing projects that incorporate green space for the residents. The three now seek to expand their partnership to address shared interests, including accessing public bond dollars available in several N.C. cities and counties that could be tapped for investments in workforce training and urban park development.

Crouse’s work will focus on building a coalition of nonprofit conservation, community economic development and other groups to conceive potential projects and then work with these groups and public officials to launch one or more pilot projects that create parks, trails or other improvements as job creation and workforce training opportunities. The project will focus first on the Triangle area, seeking to develop a project or projects there that can be replicated elsewhere in the state.

Crouse brings extensive experience managing projects and community engagement related to parks, recreation and natural resources. As a graduate assistant for the North Carolina Recreation and Park Association from 2012-2014, Crouse created a statewide wellness initiative to promote healthy food and physical activity programs and policies in local government park and recreation agencies, with 20 agencies participating in the first year. As part of that work, she created and managed a monthly webinar series on wellness topics, wrote a weekly column on wellness issues and developed healthy food workshops and a wellness toolkit for members.

She has served as chair of the Chapel Hill Parks, Greenways and Recreation Commission and its predecessor commission since 2011, guiding the creation of a comprehensive parks and recreation master plan and advising the Town Council on parks and recreation issues.

Crouse is completing a Master of Science degree in natural resources at North Carolina State University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and minor in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For more information about the project, contact Crouse at (919) 442-8514 or

About the North Carolina Community Development Initiative

The North Community Development Initiative and its certified community development financial institution (CDFI) subsidiary, Initiative Capital, lead North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities.

About The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund works at the intersection of conservation and community, recognizing that environmental protection and economic vitality are inseparable. TCF has worked for 30 years to act on the premise of “and.” Through the Fund’s unique approaches, we can: have a healthy environment and a vibrant economy; protect nature and create jobs; and support development and develop responsibly.

About the Conservation Trust for North Carolina

The Conservation Trust for North Carolina helps save the places you love. CTNC works with local land trusts, landowners, communities, and government agencies to protect these natural treasures so that all North Carolinians can enjoy safe drinking water, clean air, fresh local foods and recreational opportunities. CTNC protects the Blue Ridge Parkway, assists 23 local land trusts and connects people to the land.

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