Volunteer Spotlight: Bill Pardue
If you’ve ever volunteered at a tree planting project with Trees Atlanta, there’s a very good chance Bill Pardue was there. In fact, he may have been planting trees right by your side. I recently got to chat with Bill through Zoom, as I was inspired to know more about this long-time Green T-Shirt volunteer who was recently designated as this year’s Volunteer of the Year. This isn’t Bill’s first Volunteer of the Year award, however. Back in 2010, he was awarded by the Alliance for Community Trees as their National Volunteer of the Year. He considers this to be one of his biggest accomplishments, and rightfully so.
As an avid environmentalist, Bill has always found himself involved in activities to support his local environment and beyond. In the late 90s, Bill was Co-Chair of the Parks Committee in the Morningside-Lenox Park neighborhood. In 1998, Trees Atlanta led a project in Morningside, when Bill got his initial start volunteering with Trees Atlanta (at the time, Trees Atlanta was operating with just 3 employees and a single pickup truck). “I got hooked on it, and I’ve been coming back ever since,” Bill said with a smile. For Bill, planting projects were perfectly aligned with his environmental aspirations. “I’ve planted thousands of trees over the course of my volunteering career.”
During his earlier bike riding adventures, Bill recalls pointing out all the trees he planted to his friends and getting to show them the ins and outs of many Atlanta neighborhoods. “That’s one of the really great things about planting trees in neighborhoods – you get the opportunity to really see them.” Bill’s face lit up when he talked about the trees he planted that are now standing over 30 and 40 feet tall. Shortly after, he sadly described seeing several 30 and 40-foot tall trees he planted that had been cut due to development, particularly within the last 5 years.
The community-centric nature of Trees Atlanta volunteer projects is one of the reasons why Bill has loved volunteering throughout the years. For many of our long-time volunteers, planting projects are typically followed by lunch, a beer, and laughs with fellow-volunteers (as well as a load of laundry). Bill mentioned that he’s made some of his life-long friends through volunteer projects, and he has even gone on vacation with a few of them.
Bill has done a number of memorable projects through the years, but a particular one he highlighted was back in 2002 when he and a group of volunteers planted white oaks in the Freedom parkway medium behind The Carter Center. He described it as a project that has made a lot of impact, and he loves getting to see the trees so often. Of the many planting projects he’s done, Bill also recalls an especially challenging one that took place about a year ago in Freedom Park. After a series of many hot and dry days in September, Bill described an early October planting project that required a pickaxe to dig holes. The ground was rock hard, and a shovel simply wouldn’t break the ground. “That…that was challenging.”
Naturally through years of volunteering, you learn quite a bit about the nature of the work you’re doing. Bill explained that he went from being a novice to knowing quite a bit about trees. “You become much more knowledgeable about tree identification..the quality and benefits of trees. It’s so much more fun when you go out hiking and you can identify the plants and trees. It continues to be a learning process. I just got the PictureThis app which has been helpful.”
If you’re new to volunteering or considering volunteering, Bill offers this advice:
“Come out and join in. It’s very satisfying when you go to a neighborhood that doesn’t have many trees and three hours later, you can look down the street and there are 40 or 50 trees. Complete transformation. If you like instant gratification, that’s a good way to achieve it.”
Lawrence Richardson (our 2014 Volunteer of the Year)
and Bill Pardue (this year’s Volunteer of the Year)
Published November 2, 2020
Written by Audrey Pruitt