Lately I've been trying to share some of the stories we hear about what organizations around the country are doing to bring home the green recovery. But organizations aren't the only movers and shakers. Sometimes people just take it on themselves, as individuals, to make something happen. That's the case with J.T. Hessert in Anchorage, Alaska. J.T. doesn't have organizational resources backing him, but that hasn't stopped him from getting the ball rolling in Anchorage.
J.T. pulled together an all-day green extravaganza on Saturday. It started with a daytime Green Fair and culminated in a Green Jobs Forum that evening. I talked to him last week, as he was ramping up for the big day.
Q. Tell me about your organization, what you guys are doing.
A. Well, It's just me, no organization. Basically what I'm doing is trying to take the energy and buzz that's out there around "green jobs" and leverage that into reality, into real opportunity for disadvantaged youth. I'm trying to take that energy and manifest it into action.
I'm trying to bring a green jobs program for young people here to anchorage, modeled after the one that the Ella Baker Center got implemented in Oakland. I would love to see a program here that not only trained people for green jobs and helped place them in those jobs, but really provided those opportunities to disadvantaged youth, people who might not ordinarily get that chance.
Q. How are you doing this without an organization?
A. I'm talking to a lot of different organizations that have a stake in this, everything from the United Way to native tribal councils. A lot of them are interested in this, they just need someone to pull them all together, get them pointed in the same direction. That's the role I'm trying to play. I'm trying to facilitate the dialogue, to be the coordinator so that this actually happens.
Q. How is the Recovery Act impacting your efforts? How are you thinking about and relating to this influx of federal money?
A. Because I don't have an organization, I don't have access to any of that money. I can't apply for it, and I don't have the means to spend it if I could. But what I can do, and what I am doing, is pulling together organizations that ARE getting that money and trying to help them see that green jobs is the best place to invest that money.
Q. What kind of response are you getting?
A. It's been really encouraging. The acting mayor is coming to the Green Jobs Forum on Saturday. (Our mayor got elected to the U.S. Senate, so we have an acting mayor for now.) I reached out to his sustainability advisor, and the acting mayor agreed to come on Saturday and make some opening remarks about the green initiatives and opportunities in Anchorage right now.
The organizations I've been reaching out to have been really responsive, too. And not just about Saturday. They want to follow up beyond that. Like United Way may not be able to send a representative to the Forum, but they are excited about the idea and want to keep talking about how to make it work. The local Labor Council wants to follow up, too. They invited me to a meeting next Wednesday, which is very encouraging.
Q. This is all very impressive. If you could pick out one thing for other people around the country to learn from your experience, what would it be?
A. That, if you have an open mind, and dedication, and put in the work and energy, you can make things happen even without an organization behind you. You can learn a lot about the issue on your own, if you want to. And you can put it into practice. If you ave an organization, that's great. But if you don't, you can't let that stop you.