In 2003, I was hired as the Executive Director of a small tree non-profit organization in Bakersfield, California. I took the job because, frankly, I was looking for a part time job. The office was walking distance from my house, and it allowed me to both take my girls to school and pick them up. I was contributing to the beautification of Bakersfield, and maybe improve the air quality in the city that has the worst air quality in the country. It was an easy fit.
Soon, the little part time job grew…not because there was more money to pay me, or that there was that much more work to do. It grew because I fell in love with trees. Specifically, I learned that trees solved a multitude of community issues, most of which Bakersfield had! So I worked tirelessly, for very little money, to plant trees, advocate for community forestry, and preach the joys of proper arboriculture where ever I went.
If you asked my family, they would say I went overboard with the tree talk those first few years. They may tell you of the trip to the Los Angeles Zoo where I named all the trees by their botanical name and they reminded me that we were there to see the animals. They may also tell you how to plant a tree properly, because they went to every tree planting that the organization held. They will tell you that I carried tree stake pounders in the bed of my truck, along with a pair of pruners just in case I had to do a bit of “Tree-age” (triage) on the way home from picking the girls up from school. Trees consumed my life. (And by association, my family’s life as well.) They adapted.
Fast forward, and I am lucky and honored to have made trees my life’s work. So much so, that I now work for the Arbor Day Foundation managing a program that supports the tree organizations across the country, the Alliance for Community Trees. Alliance for Community Trees is a program of the Arbor Day Foundation dedicated to building the capacity of its members to plant, sustain, and advocate for trees in America’s communities. This is my second time supporting this organization; the first group that I managed when I started my tree journey was a member.
Members of Alliance for Community Trees are groups much like the organization that I worked for when I fell in love with trees. These groups work hard to make their communities better through trees. Some groups work with entire states or regions; some are tree boards of small cities. Some are well funded, while others struggle to have snacks at their monthly board meetings. Some hold trainings to create jobs, others hold homeowner information meetings. But they all have one thing in common – the desire to make the places they live, work and play, better through trees.
With grassroots member organizations and network partners in the United States and Canada, Alliance for Community Trees engages volunteers to take action to improve the environment where over 90% of people live and work.
When I reach out to Alliance for Community Tree network members, I am reminded daily of the importance of what they do. Whether they are planting in a local school yard, or hosting their annual fund raiser, they make an impact. Trees can change a single block, an empty lot, a city, or a skyline. Or in some cases, they can change a life, like mine.
Visit ACTrees.org to learn how your organization can be part of the network advocating for trees!