2022 Tree Champions Help Us Grow Together in Community
(L-R above) Individual: Paul Zurawski | Community: Westside Future Fund | Volunteer: Myrtle Lewin | Corporate: Georgia Power | Neighborhood: Chosewood Park
Announcing the Trees Atlanta 2022 Tree Champions
Each year we award five Tree Champions for their extraordinary history of teamwork and dedication to Trees Atlanta and our urban canopy across metro Atlanta. We are honored to announce the 2022 Tree Champions: Westside Future Fund (Community), Georgia Power (Corporate), Paul Zurawski (Individual), Chosewood Park (Neighborhood), and Myrtle Lewin (Volunteer).
In 2022, with your help, Trees Atlanta met and surpassed a milestone of 150,000 trees planted! With the support of volunteers, community groups, and corporate partners, we also planted our 12th mile of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum, our forest restoration efforts improved the ecological health of 400 acres of forested land, and our education programming adapted in-person and virtual learning opportunities to reach thousands of youth and adult learners in continuously changing times. This work covered 14 city and county municipalities across metro Atlanta with a small but mighty staff.
We couldn’t do all this work alone. Trees Atlanta delivers incredible outcomes with the support, time, and talent of our extended team — a team that includes people like you.
Join us at Root Ball 2022 to Congratulate the Trees Atlanta 2022 Tree Champions
The 2022 Tree Champions will be our honored guests at Root Ball to be hosted on May 19, 2022 at The Stave Room in Atlanta. We hope you can join us in person to celebrate these Tree Champions, your work, and all we have accomplished together this program year. As we look back, we will also be looking ahead to the completion of our new Headquarters in Oakland City.
There’s a lot to celebrate, let’s do it together.
Individual: Paul Zurawski
Paul Zurawski has been an important activator in Trees Atlanta’s growth over the last decade. He has served on our Board of Directors since 2014, including four years on the Executive Committee. As Chair of the Root Ball Committee in 2015 and 2016, the annual fundraiser reached new levels of success and brought more supporters to Trees Atlanta’s work. Paul’s encouragement, business relationships, and fundraising helped us add some of our most impactful new programs. Paul chaired the recent capital campaign to raise $10 million philanthropically to buy the land and build our new HQ in Oakland City and to continue to support tree planting and work along the Atlanta BeltLine. He worked tirelessly to meet with foundations and donors to help tell our story. Thanks to his leadership, we have exceeded our fundraising goals and are now constructing our new building that will aid in Trees Atlanta’s planned growth to serve more communities. He was instrumental in helping to secure funding from Equifax Foundation to launch the Youth Tree Team, a teen job-training program to prepare and inspire students to consider green collar career options. The Youth Tree Team has grown from 12 students in its first year to 50 in the Summer 2022 program. “Trees might take a long time to grow,” he said, “but you can actually see and make a difference in a short amount of time. That’s what’s made me feel proud of being a part of Trees Atlanta, especially in this period of growth and success.”
Organization: Westside Future Fund
Westside Future Fund is fostering long-term transformational change in Historic Westside neighborhoods. They’re building community relationships with a collaborative approach, engaging and leveraging local partners like Trees Atlanta for the benefit of the neighborhoods we both serve. As explained by John Ahmann, President and CEO of Westside Future Fund, “A lot of environmental injustice issues happened in these neighborhoods. Part of what we’re doing, and trees and landscaping is part of that, is rectifying that.” In partnership, hundreds of trees have been planted in Historic Westside communities of Vine City, English Avenue, Ashview Heights and Atlanta University Center. Westside Future Fund invests in improving broader community access to the benefits of trees, by advocating for and designing projects with green infrastructure benefits that reach the most vulnerable communities. Trees Atlanta has been planting trees in westside neighborhoods of Atlanta for three decades so it was a natural fit to collaborate with WFF. We are working together for more environmental equity by creating beautiful landscaping plans for their multifamily properties with trees in greenspaces and gathering spaces for its residents, assisting with mature tree care, and adding free front yard trees for homeowners in the westside. Other large community events, such as “The Big Blitz” and service days on MLK Day are helping to redefine community trees as community infrastructure. John adds his personal reflection about trees: “No matter who you are, a tree will give you shade, a tree will give you comfort. A tree can give you peace. They indiscriminately help all of us.”
Volunteer: Myrtle Lewin
Like many of our most passionate volunteers, Myrtle Lewin does her work quietly and without much fanfare. One could say she walks softly and carries a big bucket of mulch! Myrtle has been volunteering with Trees Atlanta since 2003 and is a Green Shirt volunteer. Her interest in planting trees was piqued when Myrtle moved to Atlanta after living in the arid climate of Israel. “Trees became vital to my existence,” according to Myrtle, a life-long environmentalist who believes one should express gratitude for nature. She began planting trees in Atlanta by first purchasing and giving away hundreds of tree seedlings to anyone who would take one and then volunteering with Trees Atlanta. Myrtle’s signature project has been to coordinate Trees Atlanta’s annual Tu B’Shevat planting in celebration of the Jewish “Birthday of the Trees.” The 2022 project was Myrtle’s tenth year of organizing the community planting with volunteers from local synagogues and communities. At 79, she has every intention of maintaining her work, whether by continuing to plant trees as she does regularly, by helping to organize projects, or introducing others to Trees Atlanta. Through her efforts, she said, “We’re not only planting trees; we’re planting tree planters.”
Corporate: Georgia Power
Georgia Power’s support for Trees Atlanta spans three decades. As a corporate sponsor and community partner, each year Georgia Power organizes employee volunteer tree planting and care projects, provides valuable expert consultation, connects us to equipment resources, and funds our work to reach more communities. For example, as the number of vehicles we need to support our work grows, Georgia Power has advised us on better fleet management protocols and are helping us explore renewable energy solutions for our future Headquarters in Oakland City. The company’s contribution to Trees Atlanta is described by Dan Burer as, “Really about listening and being creative. Exploring where you have a problem or a need. Is there a way that the resources of our company and the people of our company can help meet that need, and how we can be of assistance.” Dan is the Forestry and Right of Way Manager at Georgia Power who recently finished a six-year term on our Board of Directors including serving on our Executive Committee. Georgia Power, along with several state and county agencies, also helped Trees Atlanta launch a program to explore green infrastructure solutions to another pressing environmental challenge: stormwater management. Trees Atlanta’s new Green Infrastructure program helps homeowners in flood-prone urban areas better control stormwater in their yards by designing and installing nature-based landscape solutions. We use plants, trees, and materials to alleviate excess water runoff issues in residential yards at no cost to homeowners. Currently, it is operated on a highly limited scale, but early outcomes are promising! Georgia Power Foundation’s emPowering Communities grant also helped to expand the Youth Tree Team, a high school job training and leadership skills program.
Neighborhood: Chosewood Park
Bordering the Southside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine, the Chosewood Park neighborhood is increasingly “discovered” by Atlantans, but this neighborhood has long been home to residents who have lived and invested in their community for generations. Stewarding the mature trees in their namesake park and the greenspace that connects them to the BeltLine has become another way new and old neighbors come together. They are literally enjoying the fruits of their labor: visitors can pick fruit on trees planted in a small orchard installed by Trees Atlanta volunteers years ago. Community investment in their neighborhood expands, too. This year Chosewood Park neighbors with Trees Atlanta and volunteers have planted 300 trees in Chosewood parks, streetside, and front yards; continued forest restoration work in Chosewood Park in a multi-year project to remove large fields of invasive species; and developed a visioning plan for a bridge that would connect the park to Gault Street that includes significant stream restoration and stabilization work. They are organized and work together for their community’s interests. For example, the Friends of Chosewood Park and the neighborhood association successfully negotiated with the City and commercial developers building in their neighborhood to preserve more trees and provide better connectivity to the Atlanta BeltLine trail and continue to advocate for wildlife corridors and restoration of the stream that runs through the 14.5-acre park at the heart of the Chosewood Park neighborhood.
Image above L-R: Jacob Mills, CPNA President; Bobbie Spiller, FoCP Vice President; Amanda Peters, FoCP Co-Secretary; Lan Nguyen, FoCP Treasurer; Nathaniel Perez-Steinrueck, FoCP Co-Secretary; Christina Sanchez, CPNA Treasurer; Taryn Arbeiter, FoCP President; Nichole Weiswasser, CPNA Secretary; Caesar Blue, CPNA Vice President (not pictured)
Posted on: April 5, 2022 (updated: 4/18/22 video links)
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Thank you to Jason Drakeford.
Videos were filmed and produced courtesy of Drakeford Films – Telling Stories with Motion & Design