Announcing $895,000 of Support for WPSI and Green City Works

The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) | Philadelphia cityscape

We are pleased to announce that we are the recipients of $895,000 in funds from the Connelly and William Penn Foundations. The funding will help to expand the reach of our West Philadelphia Sklils Initiative (WPSI) and support career growth and pathways out of intergenerational poverty, with a particular focus on Green City Works (GCW). GCW, a landscaping social venture which employs West Philadelphians, provides high quality design-build-maintenance landscaping services while transforming the way the industry trains, advances, and supports its workforce.

The Connelly Foundation has granted WPSI $450,000 over three years to support its expansion. Specifically, the funding will help WPSI pursue three separate and interconnected growth strategies: partnering with citywide employers that hire at scale; creating a neighborhood-based Skills Initiative network; and growing our employment-driven social enterprise. The expansion also includes work with Temple University’s Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative (NPWI) and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to build a place-based network of employer-driven workforce programs in West, North, South, and Southwest Philadelphia.

The William Penn Foundation has also committed $445,000 to support University City District’s commitment to economic opportunity and community placemaking. WPF’s support will enable a partnership between UCD’s Green City Works and the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation to improve conditions at five West Philadelphia parks while also establishing a new model for parks maintenance that creates and sustains growth-oriented jobs that pay living-wage for neighborhood residents. The grant will support Parks and Recreation’s Stewardship Team to deepen resident engagement and advance new research exploring the connection between resident involvement and maintenance.

The William Penn Foundation’s investment will create three new full-time positions and bolster the efforts set forth by GCW. Since its launch, GCW has paid $1.4 million in wages to 16 crew members who are employed full-time and year-round in jobs with a sustainable wage and generous benefits, and an emphasis on professional development and growth. GCW’s landscaping clients include Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Brandywine Realty Trust, uCity Square, the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, and University of the Sciences. All together, GCW maintains more than 1.5 million square feet of green space.

In collaboration with Parks and Recreation stewardship staff, UCD will work to provide supplemental landscape maintenance services to five neighborhood parks. Nearly 37,000 West Philadelphia residents live within 1,000 feet of these parks.

The grants from the Connelly Foundation and the William Penn Foundation come on the heels of two major investments from Citizens Bank and JP Morgan Chase, both announced in Fall 2019. Together, the four grants total more than $2.5 million.