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CAO Receives Environmental Excellence Award from Erie County Environmental Management Council for Water WORX Project and Engagement of Inner City Youth

CAO Receives Environmental Excellence Award from Erie County Environmental Management Council for Water WORX Project and Engagement of Inner City Youth

(Buffalo, NY) — The Community Action Organization (CAO) of WNY received an Environmental Excellence Award from the Erie County Environmental Management Council (EMC) for its role in the Water WORX Community Education project.

Water WORX is a collaboration among Buffalo Sewer Authority, CAO, and Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect. The project helped engage and educate CAO students from kindergarten through eighth grade, utilizing Buffalo’s Willert Park Neighborhood’s newly designed green infrastructure as a living laboratory.

“We wished to provide a greater community outreach program, designed for neighborhood youth in particular, with the intent of engaging and educating the community about these local projects,” said Oluwole A. McFoy, CEO and General Manager of Buffalo Sewer Authority. “We asked CAO to work with us to provide a unique and rewarding experience for youth from their two community centers.”

JoAnna Rozier-Johnson, CAO’s VP of Youth Services, emphasized the importance of this project in inspiring the next generation of green infrastructure designers, installers, and planners.

“To really get the students excited about the work they were doing, we focused on creating a program that was based in experience,” she said. “We believe in exploratory education for our students; Through hands-on, interactive lessons, the youth were able to have fun and work together all while learning about the foundations of green infrastructure.”

Joy Kuebler, owner of Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect and part of the design team for the Willert Park Green Infrastructure project, was thrilled by the success of the project and the enthusiasm of the participants.

“I can’t say enough about how interested and engaged the CAO students were across our eight different sessions with them. Stormwater is not often the most interesting topic for young people, but you could see their minds working and taking in the content, their willingness to be creative, and of course their enthusiasm,” she said.

The Environmental Excellence Awards are designed to showcase and promote projects that improve the environment. In particular, EMC selects projects that can be replicated in other communities throughout Western New York.

“We were impressed by the initiative, creativity, and hard work involved in the Water WORX project,” said Thomas R. Hersey, Jr., Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning. “It just goes to show how impactful it can be when local organizations with similar missions come together for the good of their community and environment.”

CAO is looking forward to the impact that this project will have on the local community and beyond. Investing in green infrastructure is just one of the many ways that the organization is working to improve the quality of life for residents in Western New York.

Thomas Kim, CAO’s president and CEO, said, “We’re proud to have this project recognized by the county and hope to see local communities inspired to start their own green infrastructure initiatives. And we look forward to getting involved with other projects that invest in our environment and our local youth.”

To learn more about the Water WORX project and the CAO students involved, view media files here.