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Kevin Ammons: Welcome to the Preservation Technology podcast, the show that brings you the people and projects that are advancing the future of America’s heritage. I’m Kevin Ammons with the National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. Today, we joined NCPTT’s Jason Church as he speaks with Monica Rhodes, Manager of the HOPE Crew program for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In this episode, Monica talks about recent HOPE Crew projects and the program’s youth outreach.

Jason Church: Tell our listeners a little bit, what is the HOPE Crew?

HOPE Crew at Little Bighorn.

HOPE Crew at Little Bighorn. (Montana Conservation Corps)

Monica Rhodes: Sure, the HOPE Crew stands for the Hands-On Preservation Experience. It is a new program of the National Trust For Historic Preservation to connect preservation projects with youth corps all around the country. Identifying trained professionals to come in and lead the work. Craft experts is what we call them in the program. Generally, that person has 10, 15, 20, 30 years of experience working on something like window restoration. That’s their specialty. That’s how they made their living. Working with those professionals to guide the work of youth corps who, Youth corps are in every state. They do all types of work, trail clearing, road work, for example, but never really gotten into preservation as a movement before. Again, the youth corp movement, they do a lot of things. Their roots are with the CCC.

If you imagine that type of work and what those young people were able to accomplish, you can copy and paste 1930 onto 2015, and you got that same labor force is still out there working. Now, it’s called the corps movement. If you imagine CCC, imagine them doing preservation projects and working on places that matter to American history or a part of our collective story. Connecting those young people to preservation projects, to teach, what really I found is a skill that is quickly leaving the workforce.

Most preservation professionals who have these hands-on skills are 50s, 60s, 70s. I even met someone who are in their 80s. They’ve done an excellent job with their career. Now, it’s time for them to have a real way to pass those skills on, and that went off times. We see the program is really stepping up to create that connection. There’s an inter-generational dialogue between people who are very interested and work very hard and want to learn about preservation, providing them opportunity to learn and connecting them with someone who does their job very well. That’s a snapshot of HOPE Crew and who the major players are in the program.

Jason Church: You mentioned students who are already in the Conservation Corps movement. What background do these students have that makes them interested in preservation?

Monica Rhodes: They’re large range. It runs the range of interest. Just to step back, the program is partnered with the organization called the Corps Network. They are the major voice behind the youth corps movement. Corps like AmeriCorps and SCA all fall under the young brother of the Corps Network. Whenever we need a corps, the Corps Network connects us to that particular corps in Wyoming, for example, or Montana.

Corps members, Some are completing their GED. Some are just finishing up high school or headed to college. There are corps members who have worked with and known, who have completing a 4-year degree and are looking to either if their background is architectural history and they did an undergrad, where they’re looking to get hands-on experience and learn a little bit more about preservation. We’ve had corps members who’ve done photography and journalism as their educational background in the university setting, and they still want to learn about preservation. They didn’t have an opportunity to do it.

We see the programs really introducing the feel to a larger audience who normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to work on a building that we’ve built in the 1800s. That’s not an everyday thing, get that. That doesn’t come by that often.

Jason Church: How would a student who has interest in this or hears about the HOPE program get involved?

HOPE Crew members at Little Bighorn. (Montana Conservation Corps)

HOPE Crew members at Little Bighorn. (Montana Conservation Corps)

Monica Rhodes: Easy, they would join a youth corps. That’s typically how the program operates. We work within the infrastructure of youth corps. Youth corps is our wheel-oiled machines. This may be too much in the weave of things, but they have worker’s compensation, for example. They go through safety training. This is typical, this is their routine. On any project, they take someone out on, we know that a corps member is protected and is well trained to be on that job site. They also do job skills for corps members, how to fill out a resume, how to do those types of things or people or how to make a resume or put together a very strong resume. They do all the types of work.

For someone who’s interested in getting involved, the first step is join in a youth corps. They may be working on non-preservation projects. They may be in the backcountry clearing some trails or moving some stones around or working on a dam project, for example. Then a HOPE Crew project will come along as a part of their tenure with the youth corps. The first step is getting involved in youth corps and when there’s a project in a local area, then you reach out to that corps. As simple as they’re requesting, that they’re interested in getting into preservation.

Jason Church: Now, did they ever recruit specifically for preservation projects?

Monica Rhodes: Yes, they do. I was saying about 20% to 30% of our corps we worked with, they’ve already had a ready-made corp together already. A group of people that they just move around to project-to-project, and it happens to be a HOPE Crew project that they’re moving to as a next stage, as a part of their time with the youth corps. Most times, we’re working the Park Service or NCPTT and other organizations who are interested in having someone who has a construction background, for example. We will ask the youth corps to go out and recruit for someone who has roofing experience or window restoration experience not because we’re trying to exclude anyone, but because the job requires that they have a baseline understanding of how power tools work or be comfortable with working on scaffolding, for example, if the jobs calls for that type of work. When that type of request is made from the property owner, then we go out and we try to recruit the best people to fit that particular project.

Jason Church: Tell us a little bit about some of the projects that you’ve worked on.

Hinchliffe Stadium before the HOPE project.

Hinchliffe Stadium before the HOPE project.

Monica Rhodes: Sure, we’ve worked on in the first year of the program, and we just celebrated the first year, March 10th of this year. Again, just about a year old. We completed 18 preservation projects around the country. We worked with over 100 young people and veterans on these projects. We worked at all 37 structures, helped support $3 million of preservation work that are, again, that federal partners and non-federal partners are putting in to historic sites. We’ve been a part of those types of projects. We’ve worked everywhere from Little Bighorn, working on the Custer National Cemetery with the Montana Conservation Corps. Working down at Texas, the Texas Conservation Corps on LBJ’s National Historic site. We’ve worked up in High Park New York on FDR’s garage roof.

We’ve worked in a lot of different places and a lot of time zones. We’ve worked down in Atlanta with the Greening Youth Foundation, supplying corps members and working to repair shotgun homes that happened to be right across the street from the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr. We’ve done some pretty high profile projects and looking to do much more in this coming year.

In April of 2014, the National Trust did a project in Paterson, New Jersey. What I did mention before is the Hinchliffe Stadium is a national treasure for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. What a national treasure is a place that has national significance or place where we can show it has national implications for the preservation movement. If we’re working with lighthouses, for example, the strategies that we used to save that lighthouse can extend beyond that project, and other partners can use that as a grounding to what their doing on their lighthouses. Hinchliffe Stadium is national treasure. It was significant because it’s a Negro League baseball stadium. It’s the only Negro League baseball stadium that has NHL Designation, so a National Historic Landmark status.

One of the strategies for Hinchliffe Stadium was to come up with a day where we needed to involve or wanted to involve the community in the cleanup of Hinchliffe Stadium. The stadium had been closed for about 20 years, filled with graffiti. There was no real connection for this baseball stadium and community members. In its hay day, the stadium, of course, had a baseball history, had a racing history. They played football games in that stadium. People in their 30s, 40s, and 50s had those memories of Hinchliffe Stadium being a place where they went on Friday nights to watch football. Anyone in their 20s and 30s and teenage years didn’t really have those types of memories they could recall about being in the stadium and just knowing the space and really didn’t even know anything about the history of that stadium and what it represented for the Paterson, New Jersey.

As one the strategies there, again, was to involve the community, and so we came up with an idea to repaint the interior of the stadium to get rid of all the graffiti. Of course, it was really what we saw as a cosmetic in the sense, but I think what it provided for the community was a deeper connection like they walked in, graffiti everywhere, they left that stadium, and it has completely changed. We worked with our partner Valspar Paint to provide 1,000 gallons of paint to put 2 coats of paint onto the stadium.

HOPE Volunteers painting at Hinchliffe Stadium.

HOPE Volunteers painting at Hinchliffe Stadium.

The way that we organized it, we had the young people or anyone under 20, 30 come in and put the first coat of paint onto the graffiti. They had the roller rolling right over all of this graffiti so they could really see every time they rolled, they were being a part of the preservation of the stadium. They immediately saw their efforts. We had the individuals who worked 30, 40, and 50 and had other experiences with the stadium come in and apply that second coat of paint on. It was 700 volunteers that we had to be a part of this day. Not to confuse it with a regular, typical HOPE Crew program with a crew size that is 4 or 5, 6, 7 people. It’s a smaller, more longer project scheduled for this type of project.

With Hinchliffe Stadium, that was a 1 day, 700 people came in, participated, painted. It was all hands-on deck there. We feel very good about the work that we were able to accomplish, how we’re able to organize all of those people, and then what it means for the stadium in itself. We’re talking to the city about doing some bond financing and funding and going to reuse plans for the stadium. I think what it also did was it showed the city of Paterson and the community members of Paterson what was possible when people came around and worked together for a very short period of time, what they could accomplish as a community. Yeah, I think, we did a pretty good job down there working with that project.

Jason Church: For our listeners, if we have a project that we think would be a good project for the HOPE Crew, how do we involve as a property owner, as a steward of historic site in trying to get the HOPE Crew to come out?

Monica Rhodes: Sure, we’re interested in working on all types of structures. I’d like to call our … What the work of a HOPE Crew is typically low-hanging fruit. It’s basic window restoration, basic carpentry projects. We wouldn’t ask them to do anything or we don’t do projects that are overly complicated or 3-year projects. We want to make sure that people have a real sense of accomplishment when they leave a job site. They saw it at the beginning and they’re walking away from it, 6 weeks later, and it’s dramatically different. It’s from their work that they can really see a tangible difference.

If people are interested in and getting involved or they have a site that they’re thinking about, we’d like for those projects to be fully funded. HOPE Crew members are paid for their work. We see this … We take it very seriously as a job training opportunity for participants. Not only funded to support the labor, but have the funding in place to have the materials there and also to bring on a preservation expert to be a part of that because that’s essential to them or to the project, meeting Secretary of Interior’s standards, we have to have that person in that position to be able to do that.

Hinchliffe Stadium after the HOPE volunteer's work day.

Hinchliffe Stadium after the HOPE volunteer’s work day.

Fully funded, we like projects that are straightforward, not overly complicated for corps members. We have worked on and are open to working on projects in the backcountry but the more visible they are, connected they are to communities or in places or even if it’s in a rural community, if there’s a neighborhood around it or a community surrounding these historic resources, that’s better. We can pull people from that area to be a part of that project.

Those are the main things we look for, for these projects, fully funded, visible and have a public benefit, try to not work on private, places that are in private ownership, just because we want to make sure that corps members can’t take. Bring their families to these sites and walk around it or just really be a part of that. Those are some things we look for. It’s pretty easy, pretty straightforward.

Jason Church: Thank you so much for talking to us today, Monica, about the HOPE program and introducing us to the kinds of projects you do, the kind of people, the students and youth that you’re empowering. We really appreciate it. We hope to hear more from you in the future about future projects.

Monica Rhodes: Yeah, I look forward to sharing more. We have a very busy second year coming up, so I’m more than happy once every everything calms, my sanity to sit down with you and look back at year two together. We certainly appreciate you for inviting me on to the show to talk to you about the HOPE Crew program and all of the good work that the National Trust is doing to engage a new generation in historic preservation and really highlight the very good work that all of the partners are doing. It’s a pleasure.

Jason Church: Thank you very much.

Monica Rhodes: Thank you.

Kevin Ammons: Thank you for listening to today’s show. If you would like more information, check out our podcast show notes at www.ncptt.nps.gov. Until next time. Goodbye, everybody.

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