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USDA Rural Development Awards $201K Grant  to Island Institute of Rockland

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Island Institute to expand its Fellows program in 
Washington County, Brooklin, and Tremont

Brooklin, Nov. 9, 2023 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson announced today that USDA is awarding $201K to Island Institute. The nonprofit will use the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant to build the capacity of its Island Institute Fellows program. Director Hampson announced the award at the Brooklin Town Office, recognizing Brooklin as one of the beneficiaries of the newly expanded program.

“The trio of projects this grant will support represent the best of rural community collaboration in Maine,” said Director Hampson. “Small towns are just as committed to climate response and community resiliency as more urban areas, but often don’t have the staff necessary to realize their goals. Island Institute will leverage this RCDI grant to help resolve that challenge for three of Maine’s coastal towns. The Island Institute Fellows not only bring their technical expertise to these projects, but they are also backed by the Institute’s decades of local expertise and support. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to contributing federal funds to the equation through USDA Rural Development. Seeing this work in action through the Brooklin Climate Response Committee shows how powerful the combination of diverse local volunteers, town leaders, nonprofits, businesses, and students can be with the added capacity of a Fellow.”

USDA awards RCDI grants to enable organizations to conduct economic and community development projects in rural areas. Island Institute will use the grant announced today to include three new communities in its Fellows program:

  • Residents of four towns comprise the Sunrise Trail Coalition. Cherryfield, Jonesboro, Machias, and Columbia Falls all utilize the trail for outdoor recreation and alternative transportation. The Fellow working on this project will work with residents to find ways to improve the trail and make it more useful and accessible.
  • In Brooklin the new Island Institute Fellow will work closely with the town’s Climate Response Committee to help improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They will work with homeowners, businesses, and municipal leaders to tangibly improve energy efficiency in local facilities and to devise more community-driven energy transition strategies.
  • Tremont’s Island Institute Fellow will work with A Climate to Thrive, a nonprofit supporting local efforts to develop a Community Resilience Plan. Working with area residents, the Fellow will help coordinate the creation of the plan and its implementation. The goals of the project include curbing carbon emissions and preparing for the impact of climate change locally.

Established in 1999, the Island Institute Fellows program places college and master’s degree graduates in Maine’s coastal and island communities for two-year fellowships. Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for recent graduates to apply their skills and gain experience helping to build sustainability within rural coastal communities facing many challenges. 

USDA accepts applications annually for its RCDI grant program. The process is competitive and funding is limited. Nonprofits, federally recognized tribes, and public bodies are eligible to apply. This is the second RCDI grant announced this year in Maine, following the recent announcement of a $304K RCDI award for GrowSmart Maine.

For more information about Maine’s RCDI program, please contact Bob Nadeau, Community Programs Director, USDA Rural Development, at 207-990-9124 or Robert.Nadeau@usda.gov 



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