Sep 18, 2009

RCC crew members discuss the program

Brandan Cox and Eric Platt both worked very hard this summer, but they enjoyed the work they did for the Recovery Conservation Corps (RCC) in Athens County.
Nearly 40 young men and women worked for the RCC in Athens County over the summer, fixing up state parks, building a canoe access ramp into the Hocking River and making other improvements to public property. The crew members came from different backgrounds, but worked together effectively in the program, which was funded by the federal government’s economic stimulus package. Athens County Job and Family Services, Hocking College and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources coordinated the program in the county.
The RCC members at Strouds Run State Park included members who were experienced in working outdoors as well as those who were learning on the job. Some were studying natural resources, while others were majoring in other fields, such as accounting and education. For at least one of the members, it was a first job. The crew members all agreed that they were thankful to have jobs that they enjoyed and that paid well.
“We’ve all worked hard and we’ve all gotten along pretty well,” said Brandan Cox, crew leader at Strouds Run State Park. Cox said it was a good experience for him to be the leader. He added that the crew members worked hard and fast, and got their projects finished much more quickly than anyone anticipated.
Eric Platt, RCC crew leader at Hocking College, said that the program is a great opportunity for him, especially at a time when summer jobs can be scarce.
“Also, the pay is great and it really goes a long with what I want to do after I graduate. It’s like a resume builder to me, and it’s giving me leadership experience,” Platt said. He added that he loves working outside.
“I also get to take pride in our work because we are fixing up the area and I am fixing up my school,” Platt said. His favorite projects so far have included building a roost for a Red Tailed Hawk at the Nature Center and making improvements to the trails and boardwalks across campus.
“We’re also getting 10 college credits, and that’s helping me out a lot,” Platt said, adding that the extra hours will help him graduate on time. One of the most important benefits of the program for him is to receive the leadership experience.
“This experience has given me some challenges to help me advance as a leader,” he said. Platt plans to use the leadership skills and other skills he learned when he graduates and enters the job market.
“What I really want to do is to start out taking kids or adjudicated youth out onto backpacking trips, and then work my way up to taking adults on more adventurous trips. I want to spend my time in the wilderness,” Platt said. His time in the RCC has helped prepare him for that work, and he is thankful that he had this opportunity.
“I hope they keep doing this because I think it’s a great program,” Platt said.
Jim Batey, RCC coordinator for Hocking College, said he has heard positive comments from the RCC participants at all of the work sites, and added that he is very pleased with the success of the program in Athens County.
“I think it’s been a fantastic experience,” Batey said. “It’s putting people to work doing the public good, and it’s also giving them some incentive and experience.”

Shown in the top photo (from left to right) are RCC crew members Brandan Cox and Doug Hays watching a tree fall at Strouds Run State Park. Shown in the bottom photo, also at Strouds Run State Park, are RCC crew members (from left to right) Brittany Burdette, Ashley Dennison, Brandan Cox and Patrick Dailey.

Sep 17, 2009

Detailing several of the projects the RCC crew members worked on this summer

The Recovery Conservation Corps (RCC) program made a positive difference in Athens County this summer, fixing up public properties and allowing young men and women to receive training and paid work experience.
The federal government’s economic stimulus package provided the funding through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program for the RCC in Athens County and all across Ohio. Locally, Athens County Job and Family Services coordinated the program with Hocking College and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Jim Batey, RCC coordinator for Hocking College, explained that the work crews completed numerous improvement projects around the county.
“We’ve been doing a lot of invasive species control at Gifford State Forest,” Batey said. The RCC crews also worked on projects such as clearing trails and improving the timber stand in the forest by cutting dead branches off the trees.
At the Waterloo Wildlife Area, the crew members cleared trails to make them easier for the public to use, and picked up hundreds of tires that had been dumped throughout the property. The RCC is using grant funding to properly dispose of the tires.
“Some of the trails, you couldn’t tell were they were before,” Batey said, adding that the RCC members did excellent work on the trails.
At Strouds Run State Park, the crew members cleared the spillway area for the dam. The crew members took down at least 20 trees, and then ran them through the chipper as part of the work in clearing the spillway. The crew members also did work in other parts of the park, including renovating the restrooms and the bathhouse.
At Lake Snowden, the RCC member put up signs on the new horse trail system and made improvements to the trail, renovated the shelter houses, made improvements at the Sauber House facility, worked on the grounds at the fish hatchery and did general park maintenance.
At Hocking College, the crew members improved nature trails, replaced bridges on the trails, worked on the property around the reflection pond, and did general maintenance work such as weed eating and painting.
Along the Athens County Bikepath, the RCC members put in a new access point for canoes to get into the Hocking River. The access point is near Lemaster Road and Hamley Run Road near The Plains.
Hocking College’s heavy equipment program did the site work, Rocky Boots donated materials for the project and the RCC members did much of the work, Batey explained.
“We formed and poured the concrete for the canoe access,” Batey said. “It was real labor intensive…they did a great job.”
At all of the work sites, the RCC members showed a lot of pride and worked very hard, Batey said.
“I think the main thing they learn is working together in a team situation,” he said. The RCC members had the opportunity to work closely with people from different backgrounds and with different personalities, and that experience will help them throughout their lives.
Shown in the above photo is the new canoe access point for the Hocking River near Hamley Run Road and Lemaster Road near The Plains. Shown in the lower photo is RCC crew member Craig Hays clearing brush in the spillway area for the dam at Strouds Run State Park.

Sep 16, 2009

Update on Recovery Conservation Corps in Athens County

Nearly 40 young men and women spent the summer fixing up public properties in Athens County as part of the Recovery Conservation Corps (RCC).

The federal government’s economic stimulus package provided the funding through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program for the RCC in Athens County and all across Ohio. Locally, Athens County Job and Family Services has been coordinating the program with Hocking College and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The RCC participants were divided into five work crews placed at Strouds Run State Park, Lake Snowden Park, Gifford State Forest, Waterloo Wildlife Area and Hocking College. The work crews also did a few special projects in the county, such as putting in a canoe ramp for the Hocking River near The Plains.

The members all did important work, earned supportive service funding, received special training, gained experience that will help them in their careers and, in some cases, earned up to 10 college credit hours. The college credit hours were through Hocking College, and were in areas such as orientation to careers in natural resources, wood shop instruction, supervision/leadership, chainsaw operations and maintenance, recreational equipment operation and maintenance, First Aid and CPR.

“All of the participants seem pretty pleased with the program,” said Sue Pepper-Warga, who has been coordinating the RCC program for Athens County Job and Family Services. Over the summer, Pepper-Warga has seen the RCC participants become more confident workers, and she has seen how the program has helped them in numerous ways.

“For some people, it probably would have been impossible to continue on with their studies at Hocking College because of financial circumstances,” Pepper-Warga said. “This has been a big boost for them.” The participants also benefited tremendously from the work experience and the opportunity to add to their resume.

“Some of them have never had any work experiences before,” Pepper-Warga said. “It’s been really great. Our retention rate is tremendous.”

Read more about the RCC program in Athens County in additional posts that will be placed on the blog later this week.
Both photos show RCC crew members working at Strouds Run State Park. Shown in the top photo is Patrick Dailey, while Brandan Cox and Ashley Dennison are shown in the bottom photo.

Sep 4, 2009

Waiting for assistance

Julie is an Athens County resident who proudly worked for the same company for the last 15 years. She loved her job and the people she worked with, but recently lost her job because she does not yet have her GED.
Julie is working to earn her GED and get back on her feet, but has not been able to receive the help yet that she needs from the safety net programs that are supposed to be in place for Ohio residents. She has to wait at least two weeks just to talk to someone about the Food Assistance program, and she is also waiting for unemployment assistance and other types of assistance.
But while she is forced to wait for help, it's nearly impossible for her to pay her bills and buy groceries for her children. Click here to read more about Julie.