Oak Park President Vicki Scaman, Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson and River Forest President Cathy Adduci spearheaded the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4). | Shanel Romain//Staff

Not even a year after its founding,  the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative (C4) is already pulling in grant funding.

The most recent is a $125,000 Childhood Obesity Prevention and Environmental Health and Sustainability Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America.

The C4 initiative was created in June by officials from 12 west suburban municipalities and  spearheaded by Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson, Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman and River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci. It is designed to bring together Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and non-minority communities across income lines to share ideas, secure resources and drive large-scale projects within and across communities that achieve agreed upon greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, equity and sustainability goals. 

The original participating suburbs are Berwyn, Bellwood, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood, North Riverside, Oak Park, River Forest, River Grove, Riverside and Westchester.  Since June, two other municipalities – Brookfield and La Grange Park – have joined and Scaman said another municipality is expected to join. 

“My understanding is that Elmwood Park has not yet signed on officially but we do collaborate on a good many things,” she said.

The C4 initiative is supported by two environmental consultants — Gary-based Urban Efficiency Group and Oak Park-based Seven Generations Ahead — that provide a range of services for participating suburbs.

The project supports disinvested and resourced communities in West Suburban Cook County through a unique collaboration that prioritizes goal attainment and metrics on a timeline regarding the climate crisis, equity and sustainability. 

Oak Park was the lead agency on the Childhood Obesity Prevention and Environmental Health and Sustainability Award, which was awarded first place in the small city category. Other categories were medium city and large city. 

“The Mayors Group was not used to receiving grant applications from multiple mayors,” said Scaman. “We told them it was all or nothing so they kept customizing for us.”

The $125,000 was part of $745,000 in grants awarded to nine cities, three in each category. The grants, which were awarded during USCM’s 91st Winter Meeting in January, aim to support programs that address childhood obesity, environmental health, and sustainability by encouraging community members to engage in healthier behaviors. Thompson said they were informed of the grant award in December. 

According to the C4 initiative’s grant application, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs for BIPOC and low-to-moderate income residents, projected outcomes of the initiative include enhancing solar energy access in the residential, commercial, municipal, and institutional sectors; building out electric vehicle infrastructure; developing residential curbside food scrap programs; and a robust youth development program that will train and support young people to participate in the annual United Nations COP Climate Summits.

“This grant comes at the perfect time,” Adduci said. “We are building the foundation of C4, and now we have the resources to start achieving our regional goals. I want to thank the American Beverage Foundation and all of our partners for bringing this to fruition. ”

Scaman said she identified the grant opportunity through Oak Park’s membership in the USCM and brought it to the C4 executive committee of herself, Adduci and Thompson; and Darnell Johnson, president of Urban Efficiency Group; and Gary Cuneen executive director of Seven Generations Ahead.

“The application required a quick turnaround,” she said. “It’s all been fast-moving.”

Scaman and Thompson said they were surprised that C4 was already receiving grant money.

“It happened so fast,” Thompson said. “I didn’t expect it to happen so fast.”

“I don’t know if we anticipated getting funding this quickly but we certainly were going to go for it,” Scaman said.

The five executive committee members traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the WSCM awards program and other programs.

Thompson said the trip included a visit to the White House where she and others heard President Joe Biden speak.

“I’ve been in the White House before but not in the same room as the president,” she said.

Scaman said C4 also has partnered with Cook County and the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation for a  $97,000 Partners for Places grant. Goals for the matching grant include building the C4 Coalition and engaging BIPOC and non-minority communities in tackling the climate crisis in the West Suburban Cook County region and achieve related equity and sustainability goals; bringing resources to BIPOC and non-minority communities not heavily engaged in equitable sustainability and connect them to Cook County programs and C4 initiatives; and reducing GHG emissions among C4 communities through solar/renewable energy installations and procurement, energy efficiency upgrades, EV infrastructure and other initiatives.

Other goals are reducing materials going to landfills among C4 communities; increasing EV infrastructure, with a focus on BIPOC communities; creating sustainability-related jobs (energy efficiency, solar, EV, etc.) for BIPOC and low-income residents of C4 communities; and reducing the burden of climate change on BIPOC communities.

Partners for Places, a partnership of the Funders Network and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, aims to enhance local capacity to build equitable and sustainable communities in the United States and Canada. The program has awarded more than $9 million across North America since 2012.

Scaman and Thompson are both enthusiastic about the C4 initiative progress and future goals.

“C4 coming together as a group has been awesome,” Thompson said. “This work is all about collaboration.

“We all want to be a part of climate change but sustainability goals differ by community.”

Scaman called her experience with the C4 initiative “very rewarding,” adding that member communities might be dissimilar but, “We all have the same goals.”

Noting the advantages Oak Park has as a home rule community, Scaman said, “We can create resources for other communities.”

“We have our work cut out for us but we’re not afraid to do the work,” Thompson said. “We can and we will get it done.”

C4 officials are promoting GreenTown Climate and Equity, which will be held June 22 at Triton College in River Grove. The program will focus on communities coming together to achieve climate, equity and sustainability outcomes. According to C4 officials, topic areas include energy, transportation, waste, workforce development, water, technology innovation and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.

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