Community Greening - Youth Tree Team
You may not have heard of Community Greening, a Delray Beach non-profit, but drive around Palm Beach County and you’ll see their work. In just a few years, the urban forestry group has planted almost 4,000 fruit trees and native shade trees in parks, public spaces and in people’s yards, particularly in low-income areas.
This summer marked the launch of Community Greening’s Youth Tree Team funded by the Great Ideas Initiative of Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County. Community Greening hired three teens to work 20 hours a week for the summer. Community Greening Co-Founder Mark Cassini talked about the first-year accomplishments of the Youth Tree Team program:
“The Youth Tree Team is based on a national model. There are large ones in Detroit, Indianapolis and Atlanta. We want to engage teens to improve the environment, improve their neighborhoods and connect them to nature. It also exposes them to careers in the green industry such as becoming a landscape architect or an arborist or a sustainability manager for a city or company. The program has been a huge success. We recruited teens from low-tree canopy, minority neighborhoods in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach and we couldn’t have asked for a better group.”
“From the start, what impressed me was their desire to help the community and do something to improve the lives of other people. That was really refreshing. It’s been nice to see over time how they work together as a team, how they help each other out in different ways.”
“They helped pass out the trees at our tree giveaways with the City of Boynton Beach in May and City of Boca Raton in June. It was no contact with social distancing and everyone wearing masks. People lined up in their cars, gave us their addresses and the species of trees they wanted. We put two trees in their trunk and they drove off. We had a DJ. It was a real festive atmosphere. We had 500 cars in line to get free fruit trees in Boynton Beach. I was shocked.”
“The Youth Tree Team has helped maintain our urban orchards. We have urban orchards in areas of the county with food insecurity—one in Delray Beach, one in Boynton Beach and one in West Palm Beach. They have a you-pick policy that allows any resident to pick ripe fruit for their families. People can pick mangos, avocados, guavas, sapodilla, soursop, jackfruit and sugar apples. The Youth Tree Team also has planted large fruit trees and shade trees in people’s yards as part of our residential program.”
“On Thursdays, the teens have a Team Building Day. They go hiking on different trails. For some of them, they may have never been immersed in nature that way. They went to Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee Park and they got a behind-the-scenes tour from the park ranger there. They caught invasive tree frogs in the swamp, which was pretty cool.”
“The program has really opened up their minds as far as what kind of job they can have and the difference they can make. I think it has been a transformational summer for them.”
About Healthy, Safe, Strong Stories
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County continues to serve local children and families with the same mission that’s motivated us since 1986: to keep our county’s children healthy, safe and strong. This #HealthySafeStrong series highlights the vital work our providers are doing, and reminds Palm Beach County families that Children’s Services Council is here for you. To contact Children’s Services Council, please click here.