Resilient Communities - Butterfly Effect - Emma Wheeler

Open Space Institute and Thrive Regional Partnership Award First Grant in Resilient Communities Program

Image Credit: True Capture Studios

CHATTANOOGA, TN (March 14, 2024)– The Open Space Institute (OSI), in partnership with Thrive Regional Partnership (Thrive) has awarded the Chattanooga Housing Authority (CHA) a $20,000 grant through the Resilient Communities initiative for the Butterfly Effect Program.

The grant will be used to enhance community resilience and natural disaster preparedness at CHA’s Emma Wheeler Homes, reestablish and expand community gardens, and support environmental programming and activities to the community. The funding is a direct outcome of Emma Wheeler Homes’ participation in the Resilient Communities program, delivered by OSI and Thrive to engage residents in using nature-based solutions that address environmental challenges and enhance quality of life, especially in underserved areas. Support for this program was provided by the Merck Family Fund and the Footprint Foundation,

The Resilient Communities program began in 2022 as a collaboration between OSI and Thrive. During the first stage of the initiative, OSI and Thrive worked directly with four communities (South Pittsburg, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Spring City, TN and Dalton, GA) to help them identify the effects of extreme weather and develop land-based solutions that can be used to protect against challenges such as flooding, urban heat island effects, and erosion. Now that the communities have developed plans to address these issues, OSI, Thrive, and their partners are awarding grants to support plan implementation.

The Resilient Communities program builds upon Thrive’s Cradle of Southern Appalachia collaborative landscape conservation initiative, by connecting people in the tri-state region to its natural treasures, as well as the value they provide to local communities. The Cradle of Southern Appalachia conservation effort is also a focal point of OSI’s $18 million Appalachian Landscape Protection Fund, which harnesses the role of forests in addressing climate change and adds to OSI’s rich legacy of land protection in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Butterfly Effect Program at Emma Wheeler Homes
From Left to Right: Joel Houser - Open Space Institute, Kenya Elston - EWH Resident, Cherayl Maston - EWH Resident, Geri Lovain - CHA ROSS Coordinator, Michael White - EWH Resident, Rhett Bentley - Thrive Regional Partnership

“We are encouraged by our strong partnerships with Thrive and CHA that have helped us empower and improve agency and living conditions for the residents of Emma Wheeler Homes,” said Joel Houser, director of Capital Grants for OSI. “CHA has been an encouraging and collaborative partner willing to try new things to support their residents. The residents themselves have shown true leadership by committing their time and thought, but also by being a voice for their community in advocating for land-based solutions to issues caused by extreme weather.”

The Butterfly Effect Program is based on the theory that a small, local change in a complex system can have a large impact elsewhere. Through the Butterfly Effect Program, a Resilience Advisory Group from Emma Wheeler Homes will develop a leadership team, as well as receive leadership and emergency preparedness training. The Resilience Advisory Group will meet with the CHA to review, revise, and implement the flood/high rainfall event appendix of its Emergency Operating Plan, an essential step to ensure that Emma Wheeler residents have processes and procedures necessary to recover and persist in the event of a natural disaster such as flooding. The group will also re-establish and expand the community gardens at Emma Wheeler Homes to restore a collaborative and sustainable community pastime.

“At Thrive, we recognize that sometimes to focus on the ‘big picture’ challenges such as resilience, true progress starts when change is designed at the local and even neighborhood level,” said John Bilderback, program director for Thrive Regional Partnership. “The resident-led Butterfly Effect plan that was developed is illustrative of this very approach. We see how the actions and dedication of a group of people in one community can scale to impact or influence other communities. We look forward to supporting this enthusiastic team of residents throughout the project and seeing the positive outcomes that arise.”

“We are thrilled with the partnerships that brought the Butterfly Effect Program to fruition,” said CHA Executive Director Betsy McCright. “We are excited about the difference the Resilience Advisory Group will make at Emma Wheeler Homes and look forward to the seeds being literally and figuratively planted throughout the community that will lead to success.”

The Resilience Advisory Group has forged several partnerships to provide resources and training to ensure the sustainability of the program. Collaborative partners of the Butterfly Effect Project include Chattanooga Howard Connect, Shepherd Arms Rescue Mission, Family Impact Organization, Chattanooga Area Outreach Ministry, GENERATE 360 and the Chattanooga Area Food Bank. In addition to supporting changes onsite at Emma Wheeler Homes, the Resilience Advisory Group has issued support for land conservation in the Chattanooga Creek watershed to mitigate flooding in Emma Wheeler Homes and the larger southern Chattanooga community.

About the Open Space Institute

The Open Space Institute is a national leader in land conservation and efforts to make parks and other protected land more welcoming for all. Since 1974, OSI has partnered in the protection of more than 2.5 million at-risk and environmentally sensitive acres in the eastern U.S. and Canada. OSI’s land protection promotes clean air and water, improves access to recreation, provides wildlife habitat, strengthens communities, and combats climate change while curbing its devastating effects.

About the Chattanooga Housing Authority

The Chattanooga Housing Authority, chartered in 1938 pursuant to the Tennessee Housing Authorities Law, is a public body and a body corporate and politic, that offers affordable housing opportunities through its Low-Income Public Housing Program in Chattanooga and the Housing Choice Voucher Program throughout Hamilton County. To learn more about the CHA, visit You can also follow the CHA on Twitter @Chatt_Housing or like them on Facebook at

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