Small towns in rural areas face multiple challenges in responding to climate change. Many communities do not have the resources to research and implement climate actions. Universities can help bridge these gaps using their policy expertise and networks by building capacity through service-learning projects. However, connecting to small towns can be difficult; even if faculty are connected within the communities, advocates for climate change actions may struggle to get community buy-in. This paper looks at a series of successful service-learning project collaborations between Cornell University and New Lebanon, NY. The project helped propel the town to become a regional leader in climate resilience planning while ensuring strong community support. A critical success factor was picking projects and messaging sensitive to the town’s broad range of views on climate change.