Planting Trees and Growing Solutions. It’s Memory Trees.
Speaking of important Stuff, what about trees? Trees play a hugely important role in our lives. They create oxygen for us to breathe, they produce food, and they’ve helped provide shelter for humans and animals since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, our take-make-waste economy has left many inner city neighborhoods tree-starved.
Where there is a problem though, there is a great opportunity for people to come together to make change. Read on to learn how some Story of Stuff community members in Florida are standing up for trees in an amazing way.
Greening West Palm Beach
Rudi Bester is one of the founders of Memory Trees, which is based in West Palm Beach, Florida. When we talked with Rudi, he explained that the organization’s name is inspired by a personal story; after a young family friend passed away, the founders planted a tree to honor the memory of the energetic young boy who loved the outdoors. A simple action that started with one tree soon multiplied into something much larger.
The group that founded Memory Trees decided to plant more trees in their young friend’s memory, and then others noticed the effect it had on the neighborhood. Other organizations began asking them to cooperate on greening projects.
“Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities requested our help in planting fruit trees at public schools in lower income neighborhoods,” explains Rudi. Suddenly the organization was inspired by the potential it saw to give back in a larger way. “We worked on identifying previously disadvantaged areas where we could facilitate gardening not only as an educational and fun activity for students, but also so that we could share the produce with the community at large.”
Today, Memory Trees is a social impact 501(c3) organization that is playing a major role in improving lives in West Palm Beach. By planting trees and offering education programs for children, seniors and veterans, Memory Trees helps to inspire healthier communities as well as healthier kids.
Rudi is proud of what Memory Trees has accomplished so far. “People respond very, very favorably to what we’re doing. We provide education while also helping to create healthier eating habits and fight hunger.” Memory Trees continues to expand their mission in the workshops they provide for special needs children and veterans suffering from PTSD. As Rudi notes, nearly everyone, “take[s] joy from interacting with the earth. It’s quite humbling to make a small difference in all of these people’s lives.”
Memory Trees’ founders have seen amazing results from their work, but they’ve also encountered challenges: “Before we begin a new program we must ask ourselves a few questions. The first question we ask is ‘How would we fund it?’ The secondary question is ‘Are we capable of delivering it and how do we staff it?’ So in short our most common challenges are money and people.”
Despite these challenges, Memory Trees is dedicated to expanding its mission of “giving back life, in abundance.” As part of this process, Rudi applied to the The Story of Stuff Project’s Community Launchpad program. Memory Trees has participated in several skill workshops as part of the Community Launchpad program and is also interested in connecting with Story of Stuff supporters in West Palm Beach and around the world. “We have a program and a curriculum that can replicate and scale, and we would love to put a larger dent in hunger, worldwide,” explains Rudi.
Rudi sees a lot of overlap between Memory Trees and The Story of Stuff Project, because in addition to helping to create a healthier society, Memory Trees emphasizes being good stewards of the environment in the workshops that they teach. “We always strive to create gardens using minimal funds and material. We recycle planting pots and gardening equipment. For plant supports we use wood from dumpsters. We make do with as little as possible and we ask those we teach to do the same. We get children close to nature, and we don’t buy anything that they, or we, can grow or create ourselves.”
Would you like to take part in Memory Trees’ efforts to build good stuff in Florida or elsewhere?
The group is currently looking for volunteers to fill the following positions: Active Board Directors, Grant Writer, Social Media Superstar, and Videographer.
Since we first profiled and worked with Memory Trees in July, the organization has continued to grow and thrive. And Memory Trees’ garden programs have already helped hundreds of families get access to fresh foods–combatting hunger, obesity and poverty.
In early 2016, Memory Trees launched Communities Thread, a mentorship program to teach and encourage communities to crochet or knit to combat poverty, grief, or stress.