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!
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
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!