RETREET BLOG

RETREET is a kaleidoscopic group of bicycle and tree enthusiasts with strong backs, sharp minds, and big hearts who volunteer to replant communities whose trees have been lost to natural disaster.


 
ROWLETT RETREET
December 8th-11th, 2016

The evening of December 26th, 2015, a massive EF4 tornado struck Rowlett, TX, a city located barely 15 miles from our headquarters. It was 1 of 9 tornadoes that tore through the suburbs of Dallas that night. The path of destruction through Rowlett was 1/2 mile wide and 4 miles long, with 1,145 homes and business damaged, 23 people injured, and 1 life lost.

When news of the disaster reached our community, we immediately knew we would be heavily involved in the recovery process. We held a meeting with our friends Texas Trees Foundation in early 2016 and set about building a powerful cadre of partners to tackle the massive project, one we knew would take years to complete. After perfecting our model over the past 5 years across North America, we were ready to bring its power home to help our neighbors.

THE TORNADO DAMAGE TO ROWLETT, TX, WAS IMMENSE

THE TORNADO DAMAGE TO ROWLETT, TX, WAS IMMENSE

Keep Rowlett Beautiful and City of Rowlett immediately came on board and began opening doors for us on the ground, connecting us to residents and other sources of local support. The Home Depot Foundation and Team Depot again stepped up, not only giving $16,000 in financial support for the purchase of trees and supplies, but also committing to provide 30 employee volunteers to dig holes with us on planting day. Over the next nine months, Reliant Energy, LUSH Cosmetics, KIND Snacks, EY (Ernst & Young), Richardson Bike Mart, Whole Foods Market, Earth Day Texas, The Great Seed Bomb, Preservation Tree Services, ONCOR, Atmos Energy, United Methodist Disaster Response - North Texas, and Church in the City all joined our coalition.

With so many offers of help, our focus widened to include development of a robust series of programs meant to highlight some of North Texas' best elements. A truly unique week began to take shape. ROWLETT RETREET was in the works.

THE HOME DEPOT CONTINUES TO BE AN INCREDIBLE PARTNER

THE HOME DEPOT CONTINUES TO BE AN INCREDIBLE PARTNER

RETREETers began to arrive in Dallas on Wednesday, December 7th, from as far away as California, New York, and Mexico City. Our good friend Ron Finley, The Gangsta Gardener, also flew in for the week. That day, we visited Bonton Farms, Paul Quinn College, and McCarty & Maathai Community Garden — all urban gardening initiatives that inspire us!

Whole Foods Market - Lakewood also held a 5% Giving Day, during which they donated 5% of the day's net sales in support of our local operations. We set up a promo booth near the entrance and shared our story with every customer who stopped by to check out our shirts and prints. It was an excellent event that generated nearly $5,000 for the cause and added quite a few names to our email list.

5% GIVING DAY AT WHOLE FOODS MARKET - LAKEWOOD

5% GIVING DAY AT WHOLE FOODS MARKET - LAKEWOOD

Thursday, the 8th, RETREETers delivered trees and mulch to home sites in Rowlett with the help of Texas Trees Foundation and Preservation Tree Services. Over 230 trees reached their final planting locations that morning, awaiting the attention of skilled volunteers.

Following that distribution, our staff headed back to Dallas to host a screening of "Can You Dig This" at The Texas Theatre. The film, hosted in partnership with Earth Day Texas as part of the TEDxSMU Film Series, showcases Mr. Finley's work to educate and empower residents of South Central LA to plant their own food. Over 200 people attended, and lots of great questions were asked during a Q&A with Mr. Finley following the screening. It was a memorable evening that introduced a lot of new people to our community.

A CROWD GATHERS AT THE TEXAS THEATER FOR OUR SCREENING OF "CAN  YOU DIG THIS" WITH RON FINLEY

A CROWD GATHERS AT THE TEXAS THEATER FOR OUR SCREENING OF "CAN  YOU DIG THIS" WITH RON FINLEY

The next day, Friday, the 9th, RETREETers went on a bicycle tour of Dallas led by Richardson Bike Mart, who also loaned us extra bicycles from their esteemed fleet. We visited White Rock Lake, The Santa Fe Trail, Deep Ellum, Downtown, and Dealey Plaza. Though it was a bit cold outside, we had a great time rolling around on two wheels.

After dropping off tools and other supplies at Church in the City, our staging location in Rowlett, and stopping at a local resident's home for an interview with ABC news, we made our way over to Mudhen Meat and Greens, a farm-to-table restaurant located in the newly renovated Dallas Farmers Market. There, we held our official welcome dinner. 

ON OUR BICYCLE TOUR OF DALLAS

ON OUR BICYCLE TOUR OF DALLAS

Planting day arrived! An incredible group of 200 volunteers braved the cold to gather on Saturday morning, the 10th, in Rowlett, ready to transform neighborhoods. The mayor of Rowlett and several city council members addressed the assembled crowd, as did our executive director and the director of operations for Texas Trees Foundation. The excitement was palpable. After posing for a group photo, 15 teams were formed. Each team was given a planting demonstration on the ground of the church, then sent to a list of homes. All told, 245 trees, all 15-gallons in size, were planted at 134 locations in 5 hours.

THE ROWLETT RETREET PLANTING GROUP

THE ROWLETT RETREET PLANTING GROUP

Not only did volunteers come out for ROWLETT RETREET en masse, so did the press! Every major news channel ran a full story about our effort. We were honored to receive such coverage. The stories ran all weekend and even spread to other markets around Texas.

ABC

ABC

NBC

NBC

CBS

CBS

Dallas Observer

Dallas Observer

Saturday night, we held a celebratory dinner at The Urban Cloud, our new live/work compound in Southeast Dallas. Food was prepared by Chef Justin Box of The Cedars Social, who also served us during TREE FEAST last May. Friends and family of RETREETers joined in the fun and festivities lasted well into the evening.

The following morning, we joined The Great Seed Bomb to make and drop 750 seed bombs during a hike through the Lower Chain of Wetlands in The Great Trinity Forest. It was a relaxing way to cap and impactful weekend. Until the next one!