I have watched a lot of things change at Delta Institute since I first joined in 2004. We’ve changed offices a couple of times. We’ve even changed our logo a couple of times – I collect the business cards to prove it!
And while I’ve been honored to have my business card change from reading “Programs Associate” back in 2004 to today’s “CEO” nearly two decades later, in my heart I still feel the same passion and excitement I have always felt. Every day, I wake up excited to go into the office. That is something that has not changed.
I continue feeling honored to learn from – and collaborate with – each of the hundreds of team members, partners, volunteers, and supporters who have brought Delta to where we are today: now celebrating our 25th anniversary!
A photo from my earliest years at Delta Institute!
My excitement to start each new day at Delta remains steadfast even though this work is challenging. Even though we’re still working on the same fundamental systemic issues since I first joined Delta, the severity and urgency of the climate-related threats have changed. So many of our partners routinely tell us about how the climate crisis is impacting their communities:
- Water inequity that creates unfair hardships for communities to access affordable and safe drinking water;
- Income disparity in environmental justice communities facing rising threats from industrial pollution and subsequent private sector investment; and, in agricultural communities who are seeing shrinking profit margins on their crops; or
- Deforestation in Northwest Indiana has led to increased flooding – only exacerbated by the fact that severe rainfall events occur much more frequently in our region.
That’s why – in the year ahead – all of us at Delta Institute are working toward addressing these goals through several projects, such as the following:
We celebrated the City of Chicago’s first-ever citywide composting program! This new program implements a recommendation from Delta’s 2021 Chicago Waste Strategy – diverting hundreds of thousands of tons of food scraps out of the area landfills in the years ahead. Residents are now welcome to drop off their household food waste for composting at one of 15 locations across the City!
After years of collaboration between Delta, the Michigan City Sanitary District, and other partners, Cheney Run went from being an unofficial landfill to a new destination for outdoor recreation in the region. The site now captures and treats 190 million gallons of stormwater annually, protecting the water quality of a major tributary which feeds into Lake Michigan. We are honored to have won the Indiana Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in 2023 in recognition for these efforts!
Since last year, we have been partnering with organizations like Blacks in Green and Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative to implement nature-based climate solutions to redevelop vacant lots into green spaces on Chicago’s South Side. This past summer, we engaged the community by training residents to be “citizen scientists” participating in a baseline biodiversity assessment.
This past year, our team began a new multi-year project to increase the adoption of agricultural conservation practices in Illinois and beyond through soil health land valuation. Beginning in Spring 2024, we plan to launch a pilot program with a cohort of ten farmers participating in our soil health and land valuation market research.
The US EPA announced that Delta will be part of a coalition supporting the national commitment to address “pressing water challenges in 1,500 disadvantaged communities across the country.” This commitment aligns with Delta’s new role serving as the US EPA’s Environmental Finance Center, providing technical assistance for water infrastructure projects to communities in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
We have been busy assembling a “Tree Planting Consortium” of community representatives throughout Northwest Indiana who share in our goal of planting 2,240 trees throughout Lake County, Indiana: a county that has experienced more deforestation than any other in the state. The planted trees will treat 7 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually, improve wildlife habitat across 15 miles, and engage upwards of 200 youth and volunteers through plantings and maintenance trainings.
Delta Institute was founded 25 years ago to enact positive change – the word “Delta” literally means “Change.” Please join us this year in investing in the change we seek to implement in the year ahead.
If you are hoping to make a positive impact toward addressing climate issues before the end of 2023, I hope you will support Delta Institute to help us reach our 2024 goals. This year, Delta Institute earned both a Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid and a Four-Star “Give with Confidence” rating from Charity Navigator – recognitions received by fewer than 1% of all 1.5 million registered nonprofits!
In honor of the impact we’ve collectively made over the past 25 years, and in support of the work ahead, please join me in supporting Delta Institute with a tax-deductible contribution today.