Many people have heard of the Peace Corps and their mission to bring about world peace through community service. One man, Dwight Wilson, had just returned home from his Peace Corps mission, but he didn’t feel like he was ready to lay on a beach sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. He wanted to find another way to make the world a better place.
In 1993, Wilson decided to extend the olive branch of volunteerism to the Puget Sound region. So, he set about to gather a team of international youth volunteers to work on environmental projects in the Cascades bioregion. He founded an organization he called first called Cascadia Quest with 40 willing volunteers. Their first project was planting trees over the summer.
Officials in King County felt there was a lot of potential for the growth of such an organization and launched a partnership. Together, they created a professional training program for young adults all year round. At that point, in 1995, Cascadia Quest added the name King County World Conservation Corps and began working with “other government agencies, businesses, schools and community organizations.”
By 1999, leaders in the organization concluded that the dual name was not only confusing but also too long. They put their heads together to find a name that fit with the organization’s mission and goals. They decided on EarthCorps because it represented “commitment to environmental service and global understanding.”
Since then, the EarthCorps has grown its volunteer list by drawing on schools and urban neighborhoods for support. They now have over 5,000 volunteers and have planted over 226,000 trees. One of their most popular programs is for teens who want to be of service in wilderness areas.
EarthCorps has received recognition for being innovative in urban restoration via the “Ivy Out” campaign to rid Seattle of invasive plants such as ivy. They go above and beyond to return spoiled habitat to its original glory with the goal to get it to the point of being self-sustaining.
Today EarthCorps runs year-long intensive programs for youth and adults from 80 countries. Their goal is to create a generation of “global community” leaders who will continue to transform the region and the world into a healthy, thriving ecosystem.
The effort has even extended beyond U.S. borders, and EarthCorps now runs programs in Guatemala, Mexico and the Philippines.