The Sustainability InstituteThe Sustainability Institute

By Katherine Richards

Youth – Chris, Corps Member


Energy Conservation Corps

We often underestimate how big of an impact we can have on someone or something. No matter how big or how small, how simple or complex, we always have a choice to leave a footprint and make an impression. Through the cracks of a house, Corps member Chris rediscovered this phenomenon.

Chris was introduced to the Energy Conservation Corps after his mom heard it advertised on the radio. As a musician, a singer, a producer, and a dad, Chris is no stranger to hard work. However, seeking something that would provide a positive and productive outlet to his life, the ECC seemed like a perfect match. Although one of the newer additions to the program, he has already refined a multitude of new skills and taken advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. One of his newly acquired skills is the art of insulation. “I didn’t realize how big of a difference sealing such a small area would make”, admitted Chris as he described his now proficient knowledge of insulation. And thus, Chris’s realization illustrates the immeasurable impacts of the ECC that not only benefit the homeowner, but the Corps member. While sealing a door in a house, a new door of self-discovery is opened. “I can now use the skills and training that I’ve learned in my own life; reducing energy use and cutting utility bills, I can now help myself and my mom”. Chris, like most of us, appreciates work that’s dynamic and hands-on opposed to sitting at a desk or taking orders. Here, success is measured by eliminating the cold drafts in a house and seeing a warm smile on the homeowner’s face. Physically seeing the difference they make in the lives of others provides an indescribable sense of fulfillment for the Corps members. Chris expressed the meaning of sustainability as “being able to sustain life”. At its very core, this is the dream that the Sustainability Institute is pursuing to create a reality.  

By Katherine Richards

Youth – Javari, Corps Member


Energy Conservation Corps

Student, soccer player, and a future in solar energy, meet Javari. While balancing his studies in the environmental field, Javari found out about the Energy Conservation Corps from his dad, who heard about it from his Pastor. Thus far, Javari has mastered a variety of new skills, one of which being the operation of the duct blaster. Apart from learning new trades in the construction realm, the ECC has impacted him in a multitude of ways. Javari has taken his time working with the ECC as an opportunity to get his hands dirty in the much-needed industry of energy conservation. Setting his sights on solar energy and his heart in sustainability, Javari is scoring goals on and off the field. When asked what sustainability meant to him, Javari responded with “creating something that can last, something that can be self-sufficient”. As eloquent as he is concise, Javari’s interpretation of sustainability polished off what the ECC is about. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership between Corps member and homeowner creating something that can last. For homeowner, it’s the retrofitting implementations that improve their quality of life. For Corps member, it’s the education and training that provides them with a new set of skills that opens a plethora of new doors into the professional field. What do they have in common? They can both be sustained, and thus, self-sufficient. As his March graduation date is just around the corner, it goes without question that Javari’s future in the solar energy industry is looking bright.  

By Katherine Richards

Veteran – Khadijah, Army


Army, 2001-2010

“My life is a blueprint for someone else’s.” Meet the woman of the hour, Khadijah.

Until she had her first son in 2011, Khadijah worked as a Food Service Inspector from 2001-2010. Balancing life with a new baby, in 2012 she began working for Charleston County School District as the Food Service Manager. With nine years of working for the Army under her belt, Khadijah is not not one to bruise easily. Her tough skin is what protected her and her kids when life got rocky. Khadijah was studying at ITT when it closed down, preventing her from finishing her degree. Followed by a brutal divorce and a period of homelessness, Khadijah sought help from the local organization One80 Place. Here, at a time she needed it most, she was introduced to the Sustainability Institute.

For Khadijah, the Sustainability Institute gave her hope. It gave her a platform for being sustainable, a way to support her three kids, and a new passion for design and construction. It gave her something to look forward to, and most importantly, it gave her an opportunity. With newly acquired skills and certifications such as the Duct and Envelope (DET) Certification, Khadijah is ready to take on the world. The Sustainability Institute gave Khadijah a helping hand to get on her feet, and now that she’s standing, there’s no stopping her from running. Quite truthfully it sounds like she’s planning a marathon as she described how her newfound passion for construction has blossomed into a dream to start her own design firm. And if you’re not already blown away by this wonder woman’s achievements, add to the list a unique passion for the art of “caulking”, a weatherization technique used for sealing a house. When the phrase “I just LOVE caulking!” arises in any conversation, you know it’s no ordinary person you’re talking to. Poetically aligned with her dreams of opening a design firm, Khadijah’s firm belief that her “life is a blueprint for someone else’s” embodies her truest passion; to help guide those who have faced the same challenges that she has. Khadijah’s time with the Sustainability Institute has empowered her to empower others. Now that’s powerful.

By Katherine Richards

Veteran – Monte, Air Force


Air Force, 2000-2004

From 2000-2004 Monte flew from Nebraska, to Texas, to Charleston on the wings of the Air Force. With the help of his Dad who had been in the army, Monte’s landing back into ground-level everyday life was a smooth one. He brought home new skills such as discipline, flexibility, and the tools he needed to be a structured individual. Monte took a job as a Verizon financial services representative and all of a sudden two years flew by. Feeling unfulfilled and confident in his abilities to do something more meaningful, a friend of Monte’s recommended he look into the Sustainability Institute.

Joining the Veteran Conservation Crew provided Monte with another option, an option that has helped him broaden his horizons, expand his network, and introduce him to new friends. Truly everything he has learned with the VCC has been a new skill him, and he’ll be walking out certified in those skills. Monte has found a fulfilling richness to helping individuals and giving back to the community. One of his favorite parts of the VCC has been interacting with his team where work is a place be productive but also have fun. Although it’s all fun and games until someone brings up the recent Super Bowl and it turns out some crew members are still healing from a fresh wound and in no way ready to discuss such a tender subject. But of course not only does his team enhance his experience but the homeowners and individuals whose lives he’s deeply impacting. As Monte delves into the job market he now has a new set of skills and certifications in his back pocket and a sense of confidence and ambition in his front. When asked about his overall experience and thoughts on the Sustainability Institute he simply responded with, “it’s a wonderful program”. Monte defines sustainability as consistency and the ability to keep a necessity. Fueled by his passion for life and his kids, the way Monte’s been going a steady 75mph down that road of success there’s no doubt he’ll be able to practice what he preaches.  

By Katherine Richards

Homeowner – Nathaniel Jones

Nathaniel Jones

They say karma comes full circle, and for Nathaniel Jones, his life was no exception.

Mr. Jones, a Charleston native, joined the Army working as a mortician helper. A career path you don’t usually hear of “taking off”, but it brought him all the way to Philadelphia once he left the Army. There, he worked at a factory and at the local Navy Yard. Fast forward to 1989, Nathaniel was back living in Charleston, and disaster struck. That disaster’s name was Hugo, and he showed no mercy to Charleston, tearing it limb from limb. Mr. Jones volunteered for the clean-up in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo. Rebuilding houses and repairing families, his work was not unlike that of the Sustainability Institute’s. For Nathaniel, the Corps Members are doing for him what he did for others over 20 years ago. Truly, what goes around comes around. Three years after the destruction of Hugo, Nathaniel and his wife and kids moved into the house they still reside in today. Prior to the Energy Conservation Corps coming to work on his house, he didn’t know much about the Sustainability Institute and all that they do. Now, he has nothing but positive things to say about them. Nathaniel defined sustainability as “taking what you have and making it better”. In every sense of the word, that is truly what sustainability is about. From Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” campaign where they road-trip around the country to help people repair their old gear, to retrofitting the houses of the Charleston Upper Peninsula area. Especially in an age of declining resources, taking care of what we already have is crucial in order to live sustainable lives. Nathaniel is certainly having no trouble living a sustainable life, he has successfully sustained his bowling record and improved his technique.

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