July 26, 2022

Durham's Green Economy Gets Boost From U-Haul and The Conservation Fund

DURHAM, N.C. – Today, U-Haul and national nonprofit The Conservation Fund celebrated the accomplishments of the Growing Durham’s Green Economy Fund grant recipients. Funded by U-Haul and its customers, and administered by The Conservation Fund, the Growing Durham’s Green Economy Fund provides support to green, entrepreneurial programs working to improve water quality, healthy food access, greenspaces and job training opportunities in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.

A series of small grants totaling $25,000 were distributed to five community-based organizations in the Durham area. In the last year, grant recipients worked collaboratively to create a greater impact by engaging residents of East Durham’s Goose Creek watershed, which faces numerous environmental and economic challenges. The grants funded a variety of community-focused projects, including supporting the development of Durham’s first Community Food Forest and documenting stormwater and water quality in Goose Creek, which is a tributary of the larger Ellerbe Creek and part of the Falls Lake system that supports the main drinking water supply for Durham. Grantees also focused on identifying opportunities for green infrastructure solutions along with revitalizing and maintaining three community greenspaces in the watershed, including properties at Ashe Street, Center Street and Cherry Grove Street.

“During the summer of 2019, the Merrick-Moore Community took on the development of a community garden and food forest on an under-utilized but community-owned 2-acre lot. Support from U-Haul has made a huge impact in furthering this project that will not only address the food apartheid that exists within my community but will preserve greenspace and address mental and physical wellness while creating a space for community connectivity,” said Bonita Green, president of Merrick Moore Community Development Corporation.

The Growing Green Economy Fund supported by U-Haul and its customers has also made investments in urban parks in Atlanta, Detroit and Kansas City, and is currently being launched in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. This small grant program provides resources to community-based partners that support entrepreneurs who use natural resources sustainably.

“We are elated by the positive outcomes that our community partners have achieved using these impact dollars,” said Alexia Bednarz, U-Haul manager of corporate sustainability. “Thanks to the generosity of our customers, our partners are able to improve water quality; create jobs and training opportunities; manage greenspaces; and produce local healthy foods across Durham. Together, we are growing a greener and more resilient economy while empowering communities and grassroots organizations to become sustainable entrepreneurs. This work aligns with our U-Haul community objectives, which focus on helping people meet their most basic needs.”

“Grant programs like these, though seemingly small in scale, do so much more than fund on-the-ground initiatives. They also help us identify key community partners that deserve further investment and capacity,” said Shannon Lee, senior major gifts officer for The Conservation Fund. “We are grateful to our partners at U-Haul and the local grassroots groups that are using their leadership and resources to improve Durham communities.”

2021 Growing Durham’s Green Economy Fund grant winners include:

  • Southeastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces, Inc. (SEEDS) – SEEDS is a two-acre urban garden, outdoor classroom and outdoor kitchen that develops the capacity of youth through growing, cooking and sharing access to food. SEEDS provided paid training to 10 high school students through their DIG program to create a flower archway for a welcome space for the community, planted a pollinator garden, grew produce and installed a mobile chicken coop to provide access to healthy food to residents in East Durham.
  • Trees Durham – Trees Durham has been supporting the community in their revitalization of the Cherry Grove community greenspace. This neighborhood space had fallen into disrepair, and resources helped to advance efforts to improve the park aesthetics and engage residents in activating the space. Trees Durham partnered with We Are Ready 4 Life (War4Life) workforce training program, community members and Shephard’s House United Methodist Church to support maintenance and stewardship of the space. Edible plants and trees were planted to help increase access to fresh foods while seating areas added around the play area provide a safe gathering space.
  • Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA) – ECWA facilitated community involvement in comprehensive data collection on flooding and illicit discharge in Goose Creek by providing paid opportunities for community members to learn about and support monitoring activities that benefit their neighborhoods. Community leaders received training and technical assistance, becoming better equipped to support development and stewardship of green infrastructure projects.
  • North Carolina Central University Foundation – North Carolina Central University intern Phillip Agbesi was awarded a grant to conduct geospatial data management and analysis for ECWA’s new community science water monitoring program, Creek Watchers. Phillip played a crucial role in the development of community-based research to increase water quality sampling and summarize past and present flood concerns.
  • Merrick Moore Community Development Corporation (MMCDC) – MMCDC is working to rehabilitate an overgrown two-acre site into a community food forest that includes a variety of fruit trees, edible shrubs, pollinator plants and space for community garden beds. This revitalized greenspace increases access to fresh produce for underserved community members and provides a new community gathering space, while also providing financial resources to support community activities and educational opportunities. The mini grant to MMCDC helped ignite a much larger partnership between the organization, U-Haul and The Conservation Fund, demonstrating the important role that grant programs can play in identifying key community partners and initiatives. As a result of this initial effort, MMCDC has been able to acquire an additional $75,000 from U-Haul for further capacity building.

For 15 years, U-Haul has partnered with The Conservation Fund to offer its customers the opportunity to support conservation outcomes for wildlife, climate and communities across the U.S. Millions of people have chosen to give back, resulting in more than $9.2 million raised by U-Haul and its customers to plant trees, create parks and support local economies.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly 8.5 million acres of land.

About U-Haul
U-Haul was founded by a Navy veteran who grew up during the Great Depression. Tires and gas were still rationed or in short supply during the late 1940s when U-Haul began serving U.S. customers. Today, that background is central to the U-Haul Sustainability Program: “Serving the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Our commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle includes fuel-efficient moving vans, neighborhood proximity, moving box reuse, moving pads made from discarded material and packing peanuts that are 100% biodegradable. Learn more about these facts and others at uhaul.com/sustainability.

Since 1945, U-Haul has been the No. 1 choice of do-it-yourself movers, with a network of more than 23,000 locations across all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. U-Haul Truck Share 24/7 offers secure access to U-Haul trucks every hour of every day through the customer dispatch option on their smartphones and our proprietary Live Verify technology. Our customers’ patronage has enabled the U-Haul fleet to grow to approximately 186,000 trucks, 128,000 trailers and 46,000 towing devices. U-Haul is the third largest self-storage operator in North America and offers 876,000 rentable storage units and 75.1 million square feet of self-storage space at owned and managed facilities. U-Haul is the largest retailer of propane in the U.S. and continues to be the largest installer of permanent trailer hitches in the automotive aftermarket industry. U-Haul has been recognized repeatedly as a leading “Best for Vets” employer and was recently named one of the 15 Healthiest Workplaces in America. uhaul.com

Val Keefer, The Conservation Fund, 703-908-5802, vkeefer@conservationfund.org
Jeff Lockridge, U-Haul International, 602-760-4941, Jeff_Lockridge@uhaul.com