May 2006 
Volume 05, Issue 1 
Main Feature

Rooted in the community

Through ECF's help, an organization looks to reforest Calif. urban areas

Rooted in the communitySeventy percent of all surfaces in Los Angeles are paved. Ninety percent of all school grounds in the area are covered by asphalt. Hundreds of trees die every year because of smog and pollution. However, thanks in part to the support from the Employees Community Fund, one organization in Southern California is working to change that—one tree at a time.

Founded in 1973, TreePeople is a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles committed to reforesting urban areas, raising environmental awareness, and educating and inspiring people to protect and improve the natural element of their neighborhoods. As Peter Massey, TreePeople grants manager, puts it, "Our mission is about replacing cement with trees."

ECF of Southern California has supported TreePeople for 22 years. Most recently, ECF has supported the organization's Eco-tour program. Eco-tour is a half-day excursion for inner-city children to tour TreePeople's 45-acre City of Los Angeles park, where they learn about the environment, play outside on green grass and in the forest, walk on mulched trails and have a picnic lunch.

The Eco-tour program reaches 10,000 children from kindergarten to sixth grade each year, Massey said. He estimated that 750,000 children in the greater Los Angeles area do not live within walking distance of a park or a playground. In many cases, Eco-tour visits are a child's first visit to natural wooded areas. "Students sometimes feel apprehensive, asking if they'll see bears or elephants here," Massey said. "The impact of these visits is tremendous."

In addition to the Eco-tour program, the Southern California ECF supports other TreePeople programs, including the Campus Forestry program, which contributes to "greening" schools in the Los Angeles area. This program's focus uses volunteer support to tear up asphalt at schools and get students involved in planning, selecting, planting and caring for trees on school grounds. In its 15 years, the program has reached more than 200 schools, but Massey said there are a lot more to go.

Rooted in the communityTreePeople relies heavily on volunteers, and they often turn to Boeing's volunteer office for support as well.

"Employees here place an importance on the environment," said Bev Hoskinson, ECF of Southern California executive director in Long Beach. "People value clean oceans and air and want to do whatever's possible to reduce pollution. Many feel that if we don't have a healthy environment, we don't have anything."

That investment is paying off. In part through the support of ECF and Boeing employees, TreePeople estimates it's planted nearly 2 million trees and educated nearly 1 million students.

"Our urban forestry mission is not so much about TreePeople planting trees, but inspiring others to plant and care for trees themselves, and to build and preserve their community," Massey said.

Indeed they are, one tree and one child at a time.

—Debby Arkell

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