I have met many wonderful people while planting trees in Camden over the past eight years, and 17-year-old Marion is one of them. She wasn’t even a teenager when I first met her. I’ve seen her grow up planting trees and tending gardens in one of America’s toughest cities.
In 2012, Marion and I planted a willow tree with her family and neighbors at a newly-established community garden. The lot was completely barren at the time, and we planted the willow in tough, abandoned soil. The tree, in Marion’s words, “turned a deserted lot into an oasis of peace and hope in Camden.” She sees the willow as a metaphor for life – that beauty can grow from hardship and that hope can inspire an entire community to “rise up.” Marion wrote a poem inspired by the tree. The beloved willow won a regional “Tree of the Year” award after Marion and her grandmother entered the poem and a picture of the willow in a 2016 contest.
“Our community members fight poverty every day, yet the willow tree remains a peaceful place in our community, helping our residents see the importance of our urban canopy,” Marion’s poem states. It ends, “The willow tree represents a place of peace and calmness as the birds chirp, butterflies fly and the branches cascade around you as if to give you a hug or maybe even protect you.”
The NJ Tree Foundation works year-round to transform urban communities by planting trees. Marion’s neighborhood is a testament to the impressive transformation that can occur from a single tree. I hope that you will support the NJ Tree Foundation in reaching our goal of raising $10,000 by the end of December. Together, we can make neighborhoods rise up with trees.