If the Noisette Foundation in collaboration with the community believed it was necessary to build a new model to address a systemic problem then the Foundation created an incubator initiative to research and design long term holistic solutions to solve this challenge. Some of these programs may fail and others that are successful and prove their viability and applicability will either be spun out as new non-profit community asset or merged with an existing organization. The Noisette Foundation nurtured and assisted these programs until they could be self-sustaining.
Energy Conservation Corps – The Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) was a partner program between The Sustainability Institute and the Noisette Foundation. It was initially funded through AmeriCorps, with a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the cities of Charleston and North Charleston, SC. The grant included a bi-weekly living stipend as well as an educational award which could be used by the corps members for further training and education. Started in Fall 2009, the Energy Conservation Corps (ECC) initially trains members, ages 18-24, in green building and advanced weatherization techniques. The Corps members received skills training from local, certified professionals as well as on the job experience. Equipped with a diverse set of new skills, corps members provide a valuable service to local homeowners while developing an understanding and techniques in home energy conservation practices.
Why was the Energy Conservation Corps Needed? Charleston County encompasses some of the oldest cities in America. The Cities of Charleston and North Charleston are known for their beautiful historic homes, but many homes in the area still face the problems of high energy bills and others that come with aging, deteriorating homes. The overall goal of weatherizing a home is to reduce the necessary energy to heat and/or cool these homes. By reducing the amount of energy needed, residents will pay less for electric bills. This impact will be instrumental in the goal of sustainability in low income communities where energy costs constitute as much as 30% of monthly income. By reducing these expenses, more expendable income will become available making it easier for families to become self-sufficient; the key to sustainable communities. Coupled with the effort to employ unemployed youth, the ECC’s double edge approach to creating sustainable communities also creates the much needed workforce in green building.
HUB Academy – In early 2005, a consortium of institutions of higher education, community organizations and companies was assembled to both promote and accelerate the utilization of HUBs on construction projects in South Carolina. The consortium was comprised of Charleston County, the Cities of North Charleston and Charleston, the Trident Urban League, Trident Technical College, SC State University, the Carolina’s Association of General Contractors, the Lowcountry Graduate Center, the Noisette Foundation, the Noisette Company, Chamber of Commerce and Trident Workforce Investment Board/Trident One Stop. A 14-week “Contractor Business Academy” was developed that exposed participants to the essential skills necessary for managing a competitive business in today’s ever-changing marketplace. Through sponsorships and partnerships in the community, they were able to offset some of the financial requirements that presented barriers to participants’ enrollment. The academy enhanced opportunities for Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) to participate in construction projects throughout South Carolina by providing education and training essential for managing a competitive construction company.
Why was HUB necessary? In South Carolina, a gap exists between the business educational needs of HUB contractors (Historically Underutilized Businesses) and existing training programs that help build the capacity of small companies. The Charleston tri-county area has a track record of businesses in the general market succeeding and minority owned business have historically been denied access to the markets. Minority owned businesses have historically been isolated from economic opportunity. To have a vibrant and thriving local economy, there must be equal opportunity for all business owners.
What does HUB do? The Academy is focused on refining the program to provide real value and positive economic value and positive economic outcomes for an ever expanding group of area participants. The programs long term goal was to provide a sustaining program that can be replicated in other areas of South Carolina and to build on the current alumni organization, SC HUB Guild, to encourage joint ventures that will aid in the procuring larger contracts for participants. Initially, they held 4 successful HUB Academy Training Sessions, with 67 specialty contractors completing the program. The Lowcountry HUB Academy’s Spring 2006 graduates created an Alumni organization, the SC HUB Guild. This “for profit” group’s purpose is to encourage joint ventures with other Guild members in order to procure larger contracts, to actively recruit students for future HUB Academy classes, and to provide networking opportunities for contractors, specialty contractors and potential clients. The Guild’s motto is “Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” ~Demonsthenes
Lowcountry Civic Justice Corps – The Lowcountry Civic Justice Corps (LCJC) was created in 2007 in response to the high crime rates in the area. After extensive research and careful planning, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) selected North Charleston, Central Oregon, and Washington D.C. as three national pilot demonstration sites for the Civic Justice Corps. With a local prisoner recidivism rate of over 67% and the direct and indirect cost of $50,000 per inmate/yr, LCJC represented an innovative and effective solution based on modern research to improve public safety at a more reasonable cost. Through the education/training based approach to reentry, the LCJC aimed to boost the health of families and communities. The Lowcountry Civic Justice Corps (LCJC), the North Charleston site, is a prisoner re-entry program whose purpose is to combat recidivism by taking a proactive approach to rehabilitation. LCJC is designed to promote life-long changes by incorporating job training and personal development skills that assist in providing a more stable foundation for ex-offenders when they are released into society. These goals are achieved by the education focused program style. While many similar programs focus on job training, LCJC not only offers certification training in the green job industry but also focused on academic and personal development. The LCJC program allowed the unique opportunity for ex-offenders to become AmeriCorps members which gave them access to educational scholarships and experience in providing services to communities effected most by crime. The idea of building the character of incarcerated individuals through job training, education, and accountability laid the foundation for this innovative reentry model.
Why was LCJC needed? The Lowcountry of South Carolina is one of the most populated areas in the states, and in 2007 the FBI ranked one of the cities, North Charleston, the first in the state and seventh in the nation in violent crime. Property crime, drug sales, and other illegal activities provided income to citizens in neighborhoods where legitimate employment options were scarce or provided low wages and sporadic hours. This problem has created a self sustaining cycle of poverty, crime, and social collapse in inner city neighborhoods. In the state of South Carolina poverty levels has been a problem since the Post-Civil War era. The 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 15.7% of South Carolinians were below the poverty level and 50% of those at least 50% below the line. In 2007, the Weed and Seed statistics reveals that 64% of Charleston area inmates come from the communities being targeted. Law enforcement agencies in the area often report high levels of street crime in these communities which they trace to street-leveled drug dealing. These findings reflect a dire need for increase educational opportunities, training, job placement, and higher wage job opportunities in these areas. This is why the Lowcountry Civic Justice Corps attempts to take on this problem head on by rebuilding infrastructure while providing jobs, training, and support services to those in the Lowcountry. As the city and the nation moves into the era of green technology and energy efficiency offering training to selected ex-offenders who need and desire a second chance will be delivered. The offenders targeted are those who have families that are impoverished or close to it because of their incarceration. By offering these offenders the chance to develop themselves, their success will not only be felt individually but become a positive input into the community; subsequently lowering the child poverty rate in the area which is one the highest in the nation. This fact alone will put a major dent in the cycle of poverty in the area.
What does LCJC do? The Lowcountry Civic Justice Corps (LCJC), a nationally recognized AmeriCorps program, was designed to build the character of incarcerated individuals through job training, education, and accountability. The goals of this program are to reduce recidivism, improve public safety through crime reduction, and strengthen the economical, social, and environmental capital for the greater Charleston, South Carolina communities. Utilizing the AmeriCorps “learn and serve” model, the LCJC model was structured so that Corps members would spend 900 hours receiving on-the-job training in green/energy efficient construction techniques and 225 hours of personal and educational development. During their term they would receive a living stipend disbursed biweekly and upon completion of their 900 hours of service, LCJC corps members are entitled to and education award. In its first 4 years of serving Charleston County the corps graduated 4 classes equaling a total of 75 graduates. Of the 53 released only 6%, or 3 individuals, recidivated. This is estimated to account for over $840,000 per year in saving to the Department of Corrections if the members, which would be the cost if the state average recidivism rates remained the same for program. Five of the members successfully started a business; community crime has decrease significantly in the target communities. Thirty building rehabs and 12 community service projects have been performed in communities that once remained prey to the corps member’s crimes. The improvements in the structures of buildings have been estimated to worth over $1.3 million in the Charleston area in the past 4 years. December of 2009 saw another class of graduates from the program. Despite the success of a 6% recidivism rate and thousands of dollars saved at the state and local levels, lack of funding for the program prompted a suspension of its activities. The program is currently being reevaluated. Some impediments include no public funding, individuals in pre-release programs are restricted from working in occupied buildings and AmeriCorps prohibits these individuals from working for a for-profit organization.
Michaux Conservancy – The Michaux Conservancy is one of the three original programs identified in the Noisette Community Master Plan essential to grow a sustainable culture long-term. The Noisette Company and the Noisette Foundation founded the Conservancy and provided the operating capital and in-kind support of office space and financial management.
The Michaux Conservancy, established in 2003, was an environmental organization located in North Charleston, South Carolina. Their mission was to teach people how natural ecosystems work and benefit human health. They were dedicated to raising environmental awareness by providing education, research, restoration, and recreation opportunities for North Charleston students and residents. By collaborating with leading academic and research institutions, they strived to provide quality programs in, about and for the natural environment.
Why was the Michaux Conservancy Needed? The Noisette Community Master Planning effort revealed many persistent unmet needs within the community. As a result, the Noisette Company created the Sustainability Institute (1999), the Michaux Conservancy (2003), and the Noisette Foundation (2005). The Sustainability Institute educated the community to think and live sustainably. The Foundation had healthy and restorative pathways in six critical program areas created with the vision of being the community steward for the surrounding environment, education, human health, social justice, economic development, and the arts. The Michaux Conservancy was the environmental “arm” of the Noisette Foundation and addressed the need for environmental awareness and restoration of natural areas. Specifically, Michaux was deemed the Steward of the Noisette Creek Preserve, a 130-acre proposed overlay district of highland and lowland marsh. Noisette Creek needs restoration due to a long period of filling, erosion, road and utility crossings, contaminated runoff, trash, and debris. The Michaux Conservancy worked with the City of North Charleston to focus resources around the restoration of Noisette Creek.
Besides restoration, Michaux created a Center for Urban Coastal Ecosystems where programming and projects focused on issues that pertained to urbanized areas adjacent to waterways. Efforts are grouped into 2 Program areas: the Noisette Creek Preserve and the MiniFarm, a new community garden initiative to bring awareness to healthy eating and organic farming practices. Specific projects vary from regular creek cleanups, to MiniFarm workdays, to workshops about water quality.
SC Reentry Initiative – The South Carolina Reentry Initiative (SCRI), is a nonprofit progressive movement that focuses on informing communities of ways that are proven through research to prevent crime. This program is transforming into the South Carolina Crime Reduction Coalition (SC CRC). The initiative studies and presents evidence-based practices and strategies. It is a comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals, policy makers, service providers, law enforcement, and those citizens from communities who are aware of the need to improve the criminal justice system. SC CRC promotes research, education, and communication about prisoner release issues that reduces the chances of return to criminal behavior, thereby strengthening local communities.
Why was SC Reentry Initiative Necessary? With a local prisoner recidivism rate of over 67% and the direct and indirect cost of $50,000 per inmate/yr, the SC CRC represents a progressive movement aimed at lowering the rate by informing communities of ways to prevent crime. Through education, research, and organizing for justice reform, the SCRI is unique in that it brings together individuals from every part of the justice process to find solutions to some of the shortfall of the criminal justice system.South Carolina does very little to prepare its prison inmates for release and re-settlement in the community. Roughly 1,400 inmates are released annually back to the counties of Charleston and Berkeley. Local police agencies report that these returning inmates often re-offend so quickly that local police and probation monitor their return as a way of interdicting crime. For years these counties have sent to prison and gotten back roughly the same number of inmates. The SC Crime Reduction Coalition’s goal is educate the community about this overlooked source of crime and some of the best practices in use to reduce crime by helping inmates locate the tools that they need to break the cycle of crime.
What does SC Reentry Initiative do? SCRI has been successful at bringing together key stakeholders and creating partnerships that facilitate effective knowledge and resource sharing. The organization has brought national attention to the reentry barriers and opportunities within SC through partnerships with organizations such as PEW Center on the States and Delancey Street. Similarly, they have continuously encouraged and highlighted the importance of using evidence-based strategies for reducing recidivism. Developed in this way, the Lowcountry Civic Justice Corps, was created with the help of SCRI committee members, the Noisette Foundation, and several AmeriCorps*VISTAs. In addition, SCRI continues to promote awareness on reentry topics by hosting and participating in conferences, summits, and other community-wide events. SCRI has incorporated and elected a new Board. The new organization is the SC Crime Reduction Coalition.