Who Makes It Happen? Spotlight on Lisa Simms

by jfranzini on February 5, 2016

This year, the NJ Tree Foundation (NJTF) is taking some time to recognize the amazing people behind the work that we do. For our first spotlight, it is only fitting to feature our Executive Director and co-founder, Lisa Simms!

While it would be easy for us to list her credentials and the many prestigious awards she has received, we want to first share with you a story about Lisa that you cannot easily find with a Google search. One that helps demonstrate her dedication to our cities – and her ability to approach all situations with a smile, a good sense of humor, and a quality of work that can be respected by even the toughest critics.

As told by Lisa…

“Fall 2001: Our first community-based tree planting in Camden. I arrive that morning to meet the tree nursery delivery truck. Two men are sitting in an unmarked car on the street. I walk up to the car (yes, I know what you’re thinking: CLUELESS! And, you’re right!) The conversation goes like this:

Me: Hi! Are you here to volunteer for the tree planting?

Men: No. We’re police officers. This street is a known drug zone.

Me: Oh. Well, my name is Lisa and I’m from the NJ Tree Foundation. We’re planting 25 trees on Clinton Street with Habitat for Humanity today!

Officers: (Give each other a look and laugh). You’re planting trees in Camden? Trees? Yeah, they’ll be here tomorrow. (More laughter).

Me: Yep. It’s going to be a GREAT day! The residents are going to plant trees in front of their homes. If you want to stick around and help…?

Officers: You’re crazy, you know that? This is Camden. No one wants trees here. They’ll be gone by the morning. No one is going to help you. You’re gonna have a long day! Do you know what this city is like?

Me: You’ll be surprised. Really. If you’re here at noon, we’re serving lunch for the volunteers. Please stop by! (Tree truck arrives). Ok, I gotta go. Hope to see you at lunch!

Officers: (More laughter)

The tree planting goes very well. Every resident on the block helps to plant the 25 trees, and we are done by 11:30am. The street is transformed and already has shade! As we wrap up and have lunch, the undercover police officers walk up. One officer has something in his hand.

Me: Hi! I’m so glad you made it for lunch!

Officer: Lisa, this is amazing. This is the first time we have ever seen residents come out of their homes, let alone work together on something. We have never seen anything like this in Camden. The trees are beautiful! We bought you lottery tickets. I hope you win you so can continue to do this in Camden.”

Since then, Lisa developed a robust program that has planted over 5,000 trees in Camden since 2002. All plantings are community-based and follow the above model, where residents help plant and care for trees. She replicated that program in Newark, where nearly 2,500 trees have been planted since 2006. In addition, she created a fee-for-service branch of the organization (pun totally intended!) to offer affordable tree planting and landscaping services to NJ towns while providing jobs to ex-offenders transitioning back to society from prison. That program, Green Streets, has employed over 50 men since it’s inception in 2006.

Group w bearsLisa has a degree in environmental science from Rutgers New Brunswick and 20+ years experience in the urban forestry field. She is the recipient of the Joyce Kilmer Award, the Gold Leaf Award, and the Green Community Achievement Award. The NJTF has planted over 200,000 trees across the state under her leadership. Thank you, Lisa, for all you have done and continue to do!

Lisa is pictured left (center) with the Green Streets Crew.


NJ Tree Foundation Thanks 2015 Partners

by BKwart on January 31, 2016

The NJ Tree Foundation is starting strong in 2016 thanks to our 2015 partners and supporters. We are so appreciative of everyone who donated to our Annual Appeal. In the end we were just short of our $10,000 goal. Thank you to everyone who helped us start strong in 2016 by donating!

We would like to thank Ground Swell, Inc., who recently completed an email migration to put the NJ Tree Foundation staff email on Google Apps. This important switch brings us into the cloud, keeping our records safe from computer crashes and improving our connectivity.

Ground SwellGround Swell logo w QRCode is a managed service provider headquartered in Egg Harbor City, NJ. They are a small business providing locally outsourced IT for other small and medium-sized businesses across New Jersey. If your business is losing time and money to IT issues we recommend contacting Ground Swell to see how they can help you improve your infrastructure and move your business forward. The in-kind services Ground Swell provided the NJ Tree Foundation saved us enough money to purchase 25 trees at least ten feet tall!

“The NJ Tree Foundation had a great experience working with Ground Swell. They focused on what would improve our organization’s IT, which ultimately was a cloud-based system since we work from multiple places,” explains Lisa Simms, Executive Director of the NJ Tree Foundation. “Not only did they do a great job with our email migration, they were also friendly and easy to work with.”

Additionally, the NJ Tree Foundation was awarded several grants in December 2015, helping us start 2016 strong. These include:

– The Watershed Institute, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association grant of $9,500. This funding will be used to provide TreeKeepers workshops in Camden and Newark, as well as create and print new tree care booklets for all tree recipients, increasing public knowledge of trees as green infrastructure and the public’s ability to care for street trees.

– Campbell Soup Foundation grant of $25,000. This funding will be used in the City of Camden to plant 50 new fruit trees through a volunteer planting event and fruit tree giveaway. Fruit trees will increase public access to fresh, affordable produce and improve quality of life.

– Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation grant of $20,000. This general support funding for the NJ Tree Foundation will help the organization with all projects in 2016.

– The Victoria Foundation grant of $15,000. This funding will allow the NJ Tree Foundation’s Renaissance Trees Program to remove concrete and plant trees in the Ironbound Neighborhood in the City of Newark, increasing the tree canopy and improving watershed health.

The NJ Tree Foundation would also like to thank its major in-kind supporters in 2015, including: City of Camden, City of Jersey City, City of Newark, MAFCO Worldwide Corporation, Spruce Goose Farm, Smith’s Ace Hardware, and United Water Camden.

Here’s to another great year, improving New Jersey’s tree canopy one tree at a time!


Turning Mean Streets Into Green Streets

by BKwart

Our Green Streets program hires ex-offenders to plant trees across New Jersey. The Crew learn skills that will help them obtain and maintain employment, reducing their chances of going back to prison. Ishmell’s story: “Working with the Tree Foundation was a very good learning experience. I learned things that will stay with me throughout my life. Trees are a very […]

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2014-2015 Annual Report

by njtrees

Please enjoy our 2014-2015 annual report! Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook share via Reddit Share with Stumblers Tweet about it Subscribe to the comments on this post

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Fruit Trees Grow in Camden

by BKwart

The NJ Tree Foundation works with urban youth each year to inspire the next generation of environmentalists by planting trees! We started planting fruit trees in the City of Camden in 2012. Fruit trees bring fresh, local food to families across Camden and now produce over 100 pounds of fruit annually! The youth of Camden love […]

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Do trees need umbrellas?

by BKwart

Last May, our Renaissance Trees Program planted fifteen new shade trees at the Quitman Street Community School, New Salem Baptist Church, and along their connecting streets. When the truck pulled up with the large trees, Reverend White of the New Salem Baptist Church was intimidated. The trees stood taller than him! He was so pleased […]

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Volunteers Plant 500 New Trees in NJ Cities

by jfranzini

The NJ Tree Foundation’s community-based volunteer projects were a success this fall! Across the state, over 600 volunteers helped plant 560 trees in NJ’s most urban communities, where the need is the greatest. “Where else can you participate in the transformation of an entire city block in three hours?” explains long-time volunteer Anita. “Volunteering with […]

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Post your #UNselfie before #GivingTuesday

by BKwart

November 18, 2015 – New Jersey -Thanksgiving is one week away. The giving season is right around the corner! This is an important time for nonprofits to raise money to support meaningful work throughout the year. We know there are a lot of great causes out there and we know we can count on you to support […]

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NJ Tree Foundation on Comcast Newsmakers

by BKwart

Our Renaissance Trees Program Director Elena López was interviewed by Jill Horner of Comcast Newsmakers on October 21st, 2015. Enjoy this interview where Elena talks about the benefits of trees and the great work accomplished by our community-based tree plantings! Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook share via Reddit Share with Stumblers […]

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NJ Tree Foundation partners for TD Tree Days Events

by BKwart

October, 2015 – New Jersey– NJ Tree Foundation staff and volunteers will be joined by employees from TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, throughout October to participate in TD Tree Days, a cooperative effort to plant new trees in local communities in need. Newark, Camden, Gloucester City, and Passaic City will all receive new trees […]

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