The week leading up to our planting, members of Team Locate, comprised of employees from Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and Duke Energy, met with each resident to determine planting locations for each tree, taking into account utility lines (above and below), sidewalks, driveways, and building position. Right tree, right place!
MAP OF PLANTING LOCATIONS FOR KOKOMO RETREET
On Thursday, November 2nd, the RETREET rig and the RETREETmobile joined forces, as RETREETers from across the U.S. converged in Indianapolis. The following day, they drove to Kokomo to receive trees from Woody Warehouse Nursery and planting supplies from The Home Depot. After offloading the supplies, the merry band of volunteers distributed the material to home sites in anticipation of planting the following day. City of Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., were on site to help.
THE HOME DEPOT DELIVERS SUPPLIES TO KOKOMO
That evening, we hosted a welcome dinner at The Rathskeller for RETREETers, as well as local friends and family. The Rathskeller is located within Athenæum,an ornate, historic building in the Mass Ave area of Indianapolis that was designed and built by Kurt Vonnegut's grandfather, Bernard Vonnegut. The heart of the German community in Indianapolis, The Rathskeller serves up delicious German food and beer, and has a fantastic performance space in the back where our group watch local band Stella Luna perform.
A NIGHT OUT AT THE RATHSKELLER
On Saturday, November 4th, our ranks swelled with local volunteers who showed up to plant in Kokomo. Greg Goodnight, the mayor of Kokomo, addressed the gathered crowd, telling them stories of the tornado, the aftermath of that destructive event, and the importance of our efforts to bring a sense of environmental identity back to his community. On the heels of an entertaining tree planting demonstration given by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., small groups headed out to home sites to plant 120 native trees for 56 families.
A HAPPY FAMILY IN KOKOMO WITH THEIR NEW TREE
Once planting had finished, volunteers returned to Rodgers Pavilion in Highland Park, where dinner was provided by Nameless Catering. Volunteers shared stories from the day and exchanged information with new friends. RETREETers then bid farewell to Kokomo and headed back to Indianapolis for a night out on the town.
The next day, we loaded up the RETREETmobile and drove over to 100 Acres Art and Nature Park, where local RETREETers showed us the grounds, where some incredible installation art pieces and trees were on display. After a warm meal at Yats and a stop for truffles and cocoa at The Best Chocolate, we spent the remainder of the afternoon at Midland Arts & Antique Market. As the reviews suggest, it was a fun place to spend a rainy day. Everyone found a treasure, or two. We made dinner together at our Airbnb that evening to celebrate the birthday of one of our most ardent RETREETers.
TAKING A TOUR OF THE ART PARK AT 100 ACRES
After dropping off a few folks at the airport in the morning, the remainder of our host visited the headquarters of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc., where were we given a full tour. It was incredibly impressive to see and a clear model for our future operations. We learned a lot just by seeing what they have built over the past 40 years. KOKOMO RETREET wound down with a walk around Fountain Square and a craft sandwich from Wildwood Market. It was so good, we left a review.
THE GREEN ROOF ON TOP OF KIBI HEADQUARTERS
Once back in Dallas, we received a letter from the mayor of Kokomo. It was wonderful to hear how much our planting meant to that community. We look forward to our return!
BOULDER RETREET III June 2nd-5th, 2017
Our plan to return to Lyons, CO, a community of about 2,000 people 15 miles north of Boulder, began to formulate immediately upon the successful completion of BOULDER RETREET II. Local partners asked us to return the following year to attend to residents who were not ready to receive trees during our first planting in their community. We were quick to say yes. Talks also began with City of Lyons to generate a plan for the 28 barren buyout lots peppered throughout the confluence area, a storyline that continues to develop!
RETREET staff struck out for Boulder on Tuesday, May 30th, driving the RETREETmobile and new RETREET truck out-of-state for the first time. A host of activities awaited and the RETREET family was ready for this reunion. It was sure to be an excellent way to end the 2016/2017 planting season.
After checking into the amazing home we reserved 5 miles up Sunshine Canyon, we went for a hike, picked up food for the week, and set about finalizing our plans for the planting. Excitement built.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
Most RETREETers arrived in Boulder on Thursday, June 1st. That evening, the group attended a Chromeo and Rüfüs du Sol concert at Red Rocks, one of the most incredible performance venues in North America. We danced the night away as the sunset gave way to the moonrise over Denver. It was truly magical.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW TO START AT RED ROCKS
The next morning, trees and supplies were delivered to Lyons by our partners The Home Depot and Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery. RETREETers spent most of the day unloading and distributing the materials to home sites. They also enjoyed a walk around the community, during which they visited trees planted the previous year, spoke with residents, and explored a newly-rebuilt park across the street from the confluence area. It was wonderful to see so much progress in Lyons and to know we'd played an important role.
The group then drove over the mountain to Jamestown, the location of our planting during BOULDER RETREET back in 2015. We met with a town representative at Jamestown Mercantile, a familiar haunt, and ordered an epic round of pizzas. While they were baking, the crew explored the small community and checked on the progress of the trees that were planted 2 years earlier. We are happy to report that the vast majority of them were doing incredibly well! Several locals came out to say hello and thank us for the impact we'd made.
VISITING TREES IN JAMESTOWN
The next day started off with a special treat. Unbeknownst to us, Sunshine Pottery Studio also called our rented abode home, and the proprietors of the Airbnb were the artists themselves. They offered a pottery class to the RETREETers, and the offer was heartily accepted. We spent the morning throwing clay on wheels and came away with some great creations, especially for first attempts. After the pottery class, the cadre went for a gorgeous hike through Lefthand Canyon. Some RETREETers were a bit more adventurous than others, scaling boulders and finding epic perches along the way. The only fitting way to end such a fantastic day was to whip up a big meal. Together, that's exactly what we did.
THROWING POTS AT SUNSHINE POTTERY
Following a solid sleep with full bellies, the RETREETers arose Sunday morning, June 5th, ready to plant trees. Joined by 26 Team Depot volunteers and supported by Colorado State Forest Service, the ensemble planted 55 native trees at 11 homes sites and in 3 buyout properties, the latter of which were to serve as a pilot for others, as aforementioned. Luckily, the weather was perfect. Digging conditions were tough, given a large amount of compaction and rocks washing into the soil by the flood, but the group persevered.
Most RETREETers headed home that evening or the following day, but not before we got in a good bike ride around Boulder. BOULDER RETREET III was a productive, relaxing, and meaningful experience. Can't wait for the next one! Special thanks to additional sponsors Lyons Garden Club and Lyons Lions Club.
BIKING AROUND BOULDER
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
OKC RETREET II November 12th+13th, 2016
We began our work in Moore, OK, last year in the response to the devastating EF5 tornado that struck on May 20, 2013. Winds reached up to 210 mph, killing 24 people and injuring 377 others. The aftermath was major international news and our involvement in the recovery was a sure thing, especially given the proximity to our home base in Dallas. Initial contact in Oklahoma was made through Texas A&M Forest Service, with whom we have partnered in Bastrop, Wimberley, and Possum Kingdom Lake, TX. After a year of planning, OKC RETREET took place at the end of Oklahoma Arbor Week in late March 2015, during which 168 trees were planted at 77 home sites with the support of Oklahoma Forestry Services, City of Moore, Arbor Day Foundation, Serve Moore, and The Home Depot Foundation. It was the first step in the transformation of an unfamiliar and barren landscape.
DESTRUCTION FROM THE MAY 2013 TORNADO
At the beginning of this year, the Neighborhood Alliance of Oklahoma contacted us with exciting news: Lions Clubs International had funding available to continue our important work in central Oklahoma and our local partners recommended RETREET for the job. In mid-June, we inked plans for OKC RETREET II - NeighborRoots and began forming our coalition, building upon the previous year's cadre. With this newfound support, we knew OKC RETREET II would be our best event yet.
LIONS CLUB INTERNATIONAL FUNDED OKC RETREET II
Following months of careful planning, RETREET staff arrived in OKC on Monday, November 7th, and set about making final preparations for the planting the following weekend. By that time, OKIE 811 had marked all utility lines at every home and a member of TEAM LOCATE, a coalition of local partners including representatives from Oklahoma Forestry Services and Oklahoma County OSU Cooperative Extension Service, already had visited with each resident and determined the best planting location for every tree.
RETREET STAFF FINALIZING PLANS IN THE NACOK OFFICE
RETREETers began planting on Friday, the 11th, in Shawnee, a small community about 40 miles east of OKC. The following day, 78 volunteers representing 7 states gathered in Veterans Memorial Park. There, they were instructed in proper tree planting techniques, after which they practiced planting in the park. Small groups were formed and issued a complement of tools, water, snacks, and lunch. They were then sent to 10 homes sites each. By the end of the day, 215 trees, all 15-gallons in size, had been planted at 175 homes. The planting party celebrated a job well done at Serve Moore Community Renewal Center, where guests were treated to a Persian feast from Chef Daniel Avazpour and the musical stylings of Dirty Little Betty's. A number of locals for whom trees had been planted that day joined the fun.
TEAM DEPOT POSES WITH LOCAL MEMBERS OF LIONS CLUB INTERNATIONAL, OKLAHOMA FORESTRY SERVICES, AND RETREET STAFF
The following day, RETREETers enjoyed a special tour of the grounds of Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum courtesy of Mark Bays from Oklahoma Forestry Services, who had a major hand in both the design of the park and the care of the Survivor Tree. After that, the group geared up for a bicycle ride around Lake Hefner. The perfect finale to an amazing weekend! Check out the PHOTO ALBUM.
RETREETers VISIT THE SURVIVOR TREE
BOULDER RETREET II June 3rd-5th, 2016
Lyons, CO, is a community of about 2,000 people 15 miles north of Boulder. In the 1860s, families from the eastern U.S. began settling land that had been home to the Ute Nation. In 1881, Edward S. Lyon founded the town after buying 160 acres and opening a sandstone quarrying operation. Over the years, Lyons grew into a reputable destination for those wishing to spend time in its unforgettable scenery.
On September 12th, 2013, Lyons was severely affected by floodwater that inundated much of the front range, including Jamestown and Evans, the sites of our two previous Colorado RETREETs. The National Guard began evacuating the entire town at daybreak. One life was lost.
Last weekend, 35 volunteers gathered in Lyons to plant 100 trees at 20 homes and in Bohn Park. Their unique contribution to the landscape of that community greatly impacted the residents in a way that will be long remembered, much like their experience of participating in BOULDER RETREET II!
BOULDER RETREET II PLANTING GROUP
RETREETers began to arrive in Denver on Wednesday, June 1st, just in time for the Denver Cruiser Ride. A favorite from last year, the DCR's theme this time around was "The People of Walmart." We did our best to blend. Our group made a lot of new friends at the starting point, Little Machine Brewery, and at the The Dead End, the ceremonial end point which is little more than a cul-de-sac on the other side of the train tracks, under a bridge. A great party ensued.
DENVER CRUISER RIDE
The next morning, trees and supplies began to arrive in Lyons and RETREETers were on site to receive them. The Home Depot delivered mulch, wildlife protection, and tools, all of which they donated through a grant from The Home Depot Foundation. Trees, including Colorado spruce, wavyleaf oak, hotwings maple, and thinleaf alder, were procured from Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery and were purchased with funds granted by both Lyons Lions Club and LUSH Cosmetics. Staff from the Town of Lyons and the Parks Department helped deliver material to home sites with us that day, in anticipation of the planting. The previous week, members of Colorado State Forest Service met with each resident in order to mark appropriate planting locations. By the end of the day, we were set to plant.
SUPPLIES BEING DELIVERED BY THE HOME DEPOT
On Friday, the 3rd, a dozen RETREETers gathered at Full Cycle, a bike shop in downtown Boulder that provided bicycles for folks traveling in from far and wide. Cyclists 4 Community, a partner from last year and a likeminded organization that has raised $200,000 for flood victims to date, then took us on a wonderful guided ride, a loop between Boulder and Lyons. It was an absolutely perfect day, group, and route.
RIDE AROUND BOULDER
All remaining RETREETers arrived in Colorado on Saturday and, once gathered, the assembly headed to The Outdoor Games. Everyone took turns enjoying the festival and manning the RETREET booth, a perfect opportunity to reach out to a highly receptive crowd. Luckily, we set up right in front of the BMX course, which made for some spectacular views. We capped the night with a group dinner at The Mediterranean and a stroll around Boulder. Talk about a taste of Colorado!
THE LYONS OUTDOOR GAMES
Sunday, members of Team Depot joined RETREETers for a demonstration planting in Bohn Park, after which a group planting was held. From there, small groups were formed and sent into neighborhoods, each planting at 5 homes. At the end of the day, the crew enjoyed dinner and drinks at Oskar Blues, in celebration with local residents. The mayor even popped by to say thanks!
DEMONSTRATION PLANTING IN BOHN PARK
Additional operational support for BOULDER RETREET was provided by Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, who approved a $10,000 grant in support of BOULDER RETREET II. We offer them our gratitude. We can't wait to come plant trees again in Colorado!
WIMBERLEY RETREET January 16th-18th, 2016
On Memorial Day weekend in 2015, more than 12 inches of rain fell along the watershed of the Blanco River in just a few short hours. In Wimberley, TX, the river rose from roughly 5 feet to a crest just over 41 feet, far above the 13 feet flood stage and well past the all-time peak level of 32 feet set in 1929. Tremendous flash flooding ensued as a result.
Entire blocks of homes in Wimberley were swept away by a "tidal wave of water" (The Wall Street Journal). Officials reported 320 homes destroyed in the town and 12 people lost their lives. Many of the centuries-old trees that lined the riverbank and formed a major part of Wimberley's identity were reduced to piles of rubble.
The week after the devastating flood, a man named Ryan reached out to RETREET asking for help. Ryan said he had called agencies, organizations, and businesses all over the country to ask for assistance and was told time and time again to contact RETREET. He was overjoyed to have our office on the phone and was hopeful that we would be able to bring trees back to Wimberley. We immediately made a commitment to do just that.
Our planting party began to arrive in Wimberley on Saturday morning, the 16th. Most took a bicycle ride that afternoon, led by a local cyclist, that started in Blue Hole Regional Park. After the ride, everyone enjoyed a free round courtesy of Twisted X Brewing Company. The group then sat for a fabulous meal at The Leaning Pear and, after dessert, wandered over to The Buzzard Bar for some evening entertainment. It was a fun introduction to town.
Sunday, January 17th, 33 RETREETers who had traveled to Wimberley from 7 states and Washington, D.C., were joined by 45 additional volunteers from all over central Texas, including students from Katherine Ann Porter Charter High School. All told, the group planted 206 trees at 37 homes and 2 community parks during 8 hours of hard work.
Following the planting, RETREET held a free community meal for all volunteers, residents, and partners—an epic Persian feast prepared by chef Daniel Avazpour.
Ready to replant homesites along the Blanco River.
A number of press outlets covered the event, including FOX, NBC, and The Weather Channel, which did a live, nationwide interview with our Executive Director onsite at the first planting location, a community park on River Road. It was an amazing opportunity to tell the story of the floods in Wimberley and RETREET's efforts to begin replanting the riverbank.
Live Nationwide Interview with The Weather Channel (video link)
Greatest of all, though, was the feedback we received from the residents of Wimberley. We got phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and even a hand-written letter praising the volunteers not only for their work, but also for their professionalism and cheery demeanor. We are proud to call so many amazing individuals RETREETers, and to know that their presence in Wimberley will be felt for generations to come. What an amazing community!
BOULDER RETREET June 20+21, 2015
On BOULDER RETREET, 25 RETREETers planted 96 trees at 21 homes in Jamestown, CO, making a major impact that will last for generations to come. A small community of 275 up in the mountains west of Boulder, Jamestown was once a prospecting destination, as thousands of men inundated the area in the late 1800s searching for silver and gold.
In 2003, most of the trees covering the hillside behind Jamestown burned in the Overland Fire. A decade later, on September 11, 2013, the community experienced a 1,000-year flood. Seventeen inches of rain fell in a single day, almost the average annual precipitation. With little to absorb the immense amount of floodwater pouring down the mountainside, nearby gulches were quickly overwhelmed. Floating debris damned up the main bridge in town and caused the river to breach its banks. Much of the town was buried in several feet of rubble; the landscape forever altered. Under a mandatory evacuation order, 90% of residents were airlifted to safety. Jamestown remained inaccessible by the main road for months. After nearly two years of rebuilding housing and infrastructure, the time came to replant trees and make it feel one step closer to home for those who live there.
RETREETers READY TO REPLANT JAMESTOWN
The first RETREETers arrived in Denver on Wednesday afternoon, the 17th, having made the long haul from Dallas. After settling into the funky Washington Park home we'd reserved on Airbnb, the group devised makeshift costumes to fit the theme of that evening's Denver Cruiser Ride: "Cardboard, Bubble Wrap, and Duct Tape." We hopped on our bikes and joined the vast menagerie of cyclists snaking through the streets, whose number eventually culminated in one of the largest two-wheel gatherings we have ever seen!
DENVER CRUISER RIDE
Thursday morning we rode to Golden, where the west begins and where Coors is brewed. The 45 mile jaunt was filled with diverse terrain and scenery. We observed the effects the recent rains had on the local trail system and, after a bit of wandering and a spot of lunch, we rolled back to the homestead and converged with newly-arriving members of our group. That evening, we enjoyed pizza just a stone's throw from our abode.
THE RIDE TO GOLDEN
On Friday, the day before the planting, RETREET staff oversaw the delivery of trees from Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery, a long-term partner whose stock is top notch. We then visited The Home Depot in Boulder, with whom we had filed a successful $2,000 grant application through the The Home Depot Foundation, in order to acquire compost, mulch, and tools needed for the planting. After a quick stop at Whole Foods Market on Pearl to pickup a $250 gift card given by the store to cover the follow day's lunch, RETREET staff reunited with the main group in Boulder, whose tally had grown significantly during the preceding hours as new RETREETers arrived from afar. After dinner, our caravan climbed up the mountain to Balarat Outdoor Education Center, where we stayed for the weekend.
PICKING UP SUPPLIES AT THE HOME DEPOT
On planting day, RETREETers were welcomed to town by local representatives and treated to a presentation about the flood and its effects on the community. After a proper planting demonstration, given by members of Colorado State Forest Service and RETREET staff, the company broke into small groups and headed into the neighborhood. Six hours later, the majority of trees were planted, and the RETREETers were ready to celebrate. Jamestown Mercantile cooked up a delicious feast, with local brews and music on tap. Quite a few folks danced the night away! The rest went back to camp and made cookies.
Sunday, last few trees were planted and the remaining RETREETers went for a hike up Moorhead Gulch. There, evidence of the flood was clearly visible. We took a break to pan the river and struck gold!
PLANTING THE LAST TREE IN JAMESTOWN
BOULDER RETREET was a very community-based effort. Our team really plugged into the local scene. CLICK HERE to view the photo album and CLICK HERE to see the town's press release regarding the event. Our efforts marked a noticeable transition in the Jamestown's recovery efforts. Check out the letter below, which was sent to us by Nina Andaloro, Jamestown's volunteer and donations coordinator. A heartfelt and special thank you is offered to Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, whose $10,000 grant underwrote the event. RETREET is proud of the work we accomplished in Jamestown and we look forward to further plantings this coming winter, soon to be announced!
OKC RETREET March 28+29, 2015
We held our first conversation about OKC RETREET eighteen months ago, after our partners at Texas A&M Forest Service suggested we reach out to Oklahoma Forestry Services to setup a planting in the wake of an EF5 tornado struck Moore on May 20, 2013. The devastation had made international news: 24 lives lost, 1,150 homes destroyed, 4,000 trees swept away, and an estimated $2 billion in total damages. RETREET was eager to help our neighbors and excited to work in a new state.
Moore needed some time to heal, so we decided to wait a year, until the next planting season. In Charlotte, North Carolina, at the 2014 Partners in Community Forestry Conference last November, our Executive Director sat down with representatives of Oklahoma Forestry Services and Arbor Day Foundation to discuss the need for trees in Moore. It was the start of an amazing partnership. Together, we decided that both OKC RETREET and Oklahoma Community Tree Recovery Campaign, a newly launched project of Arbor Day Foundation, would take place the closing weekend of Oklahoma Arbor Week. Our national partner ACTrees suggested we reach out to Tree Bank Foundation, well-respected local nonprofit organization that would be a great resource for both events.
With dates selected and a team of partners at hand, RETREET set out to raise funds for the event and collaborate with local organizations. Once again, ArborGen offered to provide $2,500 towards the purchase of trees, allowing us to offer larger specimens to each family. JCPenney sent $2,000 in support of general operations and The Home Depotapproved a grant request for $1,350 of supplies, including mulch, shovels, pruners, gloves, pickaxes, and coolers. Hampton Inn & Suites gave generously reduced rates to our RETREETers.
Enthusiasm for OKC RETREET at the local level was palpable. Numerous entities, including City of Moore and SERVE MOORE wanted to be involved, and a whole host of volunteers offered to come out to plant trees. At the beginning of March, notifications were sent to residents of Moore regarding the availability of trees and, within three weeks, 193 requests were received, 2.5 times the 80 requests we expected to be able to fulfill. OKIE was contacted two weeks before the plantings so that all utilities could be marked and a representative from Oklahoma Forestry Services and its partners visited with each recipient thereafter to ensure that every tree would be planted in the right place.
Two days before OKC RETREET was set to begin, another tornado hit Moore. Though much less powerful than the previous one, enough damage was done that relief efforts had to begin all over again. Trees and RETREETers were en route and everything was lined up for the weekend. It was up to the City of Moore to decide whether or not to proceed.
After serious consideration, and with teams of volunteers cleaning up debris in multiple neighborhoods, the locals resolved to see OKC RETREET come to fruition and not allow the new storm to postpone our plans. Recovery efforts from one tornado would occur alongside relief efforts from another. #MooreStrong!
On March 28, 2015, a beautiful Saturday afternoon, 22 RETREETers were joined by 50 local volunteers in Veterans' Memorial Park. After a short welcome from city representatives, a tree planting demonstration, and lunch provided by Moore Beautiful, the assembly broke into small groups and planted a total of 162 trees in Moore, an even mix of 15-gallon Shumard Oaks and 7-gallon Redbuds, Oklahoma's state tree. The locations included Veterans' Memorial Park, the Community Renewal Center, and 78 home sites. All plantings were completed within 7 hours; a truly inspirational effort. Volunteers converged on the Community Renewal Center for a delicious dinner following the planting, sponsored by Silver Star Construction and whipped up by RETREET's own Daniel Avazpour.
Several TV stations showed up to cover the event and, that evening, while RETREETers enjoyed the nightlife of Bricktown, our story ran on most major networks in OKC. Over the following two days, affiliate stations all over the country picked it up.
Sunday morning, RETREETers gathered at Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. They were given a personal tour of the grounds by Oklahoma Forestry Services and then taken through the museum. After that sobering experience, the group went for a bike ride along the Oklahoma River and on some of its great bike paths. It was a perfect ending to a fulfilling and fantastic weekend.
RETREET would like to thank everyone who was involved with OKC RETREET in any way. We look forward to our next outing in the area and hope to return this fall. To help us plant more trees in Moore, consider SPROUTING A TREE!
Many remarkable moments have occurred on RETREET.
Days before our event in Joplin, MO, began, Hurricane Sandy hit. One of our most recurrent RETREETers, Harry, watched in helpless frustration as images of his neighborhood, now a swirling tide of totaled homes, filled the TV screen in the lobby of our hotel during breakfast. “Well, there’s nothing I could do if I was there, so I am just going to concentrate on what we are here for: planting trees for people,” Harry resolved.
Later that day, as Harry worked in a neighborhood that had been obliterated by a tornado the previous year, he saw a young family holding an estate sale. Harry walked over to find out why the family seemed to be selling everything they owned.
“After the tornado hit,” the father explained, “people from all over showed up to help us. We didn’t have insurance. A church group built this new house. Others filled it with things. It was amazing. We wanted to do something for the victims of Sandy, so we decided to sell everything we don’t need and send the money to help those people. You know, pay it forward.”
Harry told the family about his community in NJ and explained what he was doing in Joplin. An assembly of RETREETers gathered to listen. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and the group posed for a photo. It was a powerful scene that resonates to this day: people helping people in every direction.
For many, community is a source of true happiness. The feelings of satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment that characterize happiness can be readily derived from affecting the lives of those around you in a positive way and being appreciated and loved for doing so. Everyone wants to belong and make an impact.
This is one of the greatest draws of online social networks, and explains the massive amount of time some people spend manicuring their personas. “Look at everything I am doing and how incredibly likeable I am!” Unfortunately, though we are more connected than ever, we are also more detached from the world around us. How many times have you looked around and noticed that you were the only person not using your phone? How long have you waited for a response from a digitally distracted companion? How, and where, can this be overcome?
RETREET is a place where people reconnect. Not just with those in our own community, but with others like us, those who need us, and the environment that surrounds us.
In the post-disaster landscape, people are motivated to act. A sense of need is felt. A moment to shine is presented. We yearn for a unique way to assist in relief efforts, the chance to join others in that pursuit, and the knowledge that our assistance is cherished by those we are helping. Harry’s encounter with that young family is a prime example of how RETREET creates community. One of many.
Communities obtain their identity, in large part, through the environments in which they exist. To their inhabitants, trees become important signifiers of what is known as home: the maple you climbed as a child, the apple you harvest in every summer, the oak you planted with your father when your daughter was born. When a disaster strikes and the environment is razed, one of the most important elements of the recovery process is the replacement of the urban forest. It helps the community return to a sense of normalcy and adds a healing layer of green to the traumatized landscape. By planting trees, we help communities reclaim their identity and give the inhabitants something positive to focus on when they step our of their front doors and encounter their new world. Victims of disaster are transformed into stewards of the land who are made responsible for recreating what they loved so they can pass it on the next generation.
The vision of RETREET is to create a society in which the need to replace lost trees in a manner sensitive to the local environment is considered part of the standard response to disaster, and is provided for alongside other relief initiatives.
Our mission is to build awareness of our vision by replanting trees in communities whose urban forests have been decimated in disaster by offering weekend community service adventures to active volunteers.
That being said, RETREET is not simply an idea—RETREET is a community comprised of those who share our vision and materialize to forward its achievement. Membership is open to all. Not only is our community the source from which we derive our strength as an organization, it is the focal point of our efforts. Every moment spent on RETREET is meant to amplify both the internal and external sense of community. That is why we plant trees one home at a time, ride bicycles through the affected area, and host events to which we invite those for whom we plant. Each is a way for RETREETers to connect with each other, and with the locals.
Over two years into this adventure, those who have chosen to be a part of our community have established a track record of which they can be proud. In concert, we have planted 3,253 trees in eight communities across North America. We have transformed numerous and diverse landscapes of tragedy and destruction into those of hope and recovery. If you have been watching from the sidelines and want to participate, now is the time to get in the game! Become an active part of redefining the global concept of natural disaster relief.
WE NEED YOU. Come on RETREET. Can’t make it? Help another RETREETer get there. Make a donation to our cause. Buy a RETREET shirt, wear it, and tell people our story when they ask about it. Find relevant events in your community and attend them on behalf of RETREET. Spread the word. Know of a community that could use our help? Initiate and organize your own RETREET. Share your time and talent by joining our board. Let us know how you can help. Need ideas, stickers, brochures, volunteers or a game plan? We’ll send them your way.
RETREET is the sum total of every experience that has been had during, in support of, or as a benefit of our efforts. When you talk to a friend about RETREET, you are RETREET. The future of our organization depends on you.
At the end of the day, it’s all about who shows up.
SUNDAY SHOW & TELL vol.20
Take a virtual forest bath with images of some of the most beautiful trees on Earth. Then, check out a proposal from the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition that presents a vision for protected intersections for bicyclists. What do you think? Finally, meet Akira Miyawaki, the director of the Japanese Center for International Studies in Ecology, who is taking an all-natural approach to disaster prevention: growing a 40 million tree Great Wall of Forest.
Take a forest bath! (PHOTO GALLERY)
Proposal for a Protected Intersection for Bicyclists. (VIDEO)
The Scientist Who Has Planted 40 Million Trees as a Tidal Wave Shield. (ARTICLE)