Featured Story: Gloria, North Camden

Gloria has lived in North Camden her whole life. In 2009, she met Elise and Jess from the NJ Tree Foundation. “I want trees for my block!” Gloria said. Elise handed her a stack of Resident Tree Agreements and explained that Gloria and her neighbors were eligible for free trees so long as they would a) sign for the tree, b) care for the tree for a minimum of 2 years, and c) help plant the tree. Within a day, Gloria collected signatures for 11 street trees to be planted on her block. Wow! What a go-getter!!

In May of 2009, Gloria and her neighbors joined forces with over 75 volunteers to dig holes, plant trees and lay mulch at their tree planting event. Gloria, who is retired, was seen throughout the day with a shovel and a smile. When she needed a break, she would load cold waters into her vehicle and deliver them to volunteers. At one point (and we didn’t get to see how this happened), she ran over a shovel and sent it flying into the air. It fell down onto her car, which was kept in supreme condition, and left a dent! When Jess ran over to see if Gloria was okay, she explained “I’m too excited over these beautiful trees to care that there’s a dent in my car. ”

The tree planting was a success! In just 3 hours, we planted 45 total trees in Gloria’s neighborhood (along her block and two surrounding streets)! This was Jess’s first tree planting on her own, and to this day she still says it was her most memorable.

Gloria later called Jess to express her gratitude. These are the kind of messages a tree planter loves to receive! “I turned onto my street today, and it felt like a whole new block… People are stopping to compliment the trees…” Then, for the real kicker, she went on to say “These trees have restored a new life to my block. A life that was lost long ago, and a life I didn’t think would come back. Thank you so much.”

Gloria went on to receive the Campbell Soup Company’s Unsung Hero Award at their Annual Networking Breakfast in 2010 for her volunteer work with the NJ Tree Foundation. She can be seen often at community meetings, clean ups, tree plantings, and other neighborhood events — or, just outside, sweeping up or sitting under her trees. Gloria, we thank you sincerely for all you do to make Camden a better place. People like you inspire us everyday.

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