Help Us Plant Trees this Spring

Hey volunteers! Are you ready to get outside, dig in the dirt, and help beautify urban communities with trees? We are, and we hope you’ll join us! This spring, the NJ Tree Foundation has a full schedule of exciting community tree planting events in Camden, Newark, and Gloucester City. We’re looking for dedicated volunteers like you to help make these events possible.

In Camden, we’re co-hosting the State Arbor Day Tree Planting on Friday, April 28th. We’re also hosting a large 90-tree event on Saturday, May 6th at the old waterfront prison site, soon to be known as Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront Park. These two events need volunteers.

In Newark, we have 10 tree planting events scheduled all over Brick City! Don’t miss out on the fun as we work with the City of Newark, residents, and community organizations to make a difference through tree planting.

In Gloucester City, we’re hosting our first-ever community tree planting event on Earth Day – Saturday, April 22nd! Join us as we plant trees along the 900 block of Monmouth Street with residents, the local Green Team, and the Tree Committee.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Today’s Snapple Cap

News from Jessica at the NJ Tree Foundation

Dear Volunteers, Tree Recipients, & Supporters,

After eight truly amazing years with the NJ Tree Foundation, I’m embarking on a new adventure. On March 28th, I will start working for Camden Lutheran Housing and the Block Supporter Initiative in North Camden.

The NJ Tree Foundation will ensure a smooth transition as they continue their great work in Camden and Gloucester City. Their job posting is available online. Please feel free to share!

In April and May, I will be at the NJ Tree Foundation’s spring planting events and invite you to volunteer with me one last time! On Saturday, April 22nd, we’re partnering with Gloucester City to plant 35 trees for Earth Day! On Friday, April 28th, we are partnering with the State and the City of Camden to plant 10 trees for Arbor Day. On Saturday, May 6th, we are partnering with the City of Camden, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership,
and North Camden stakeholders to plant 90 trees at the old waterfront prison site in North Camden. To help out, simply email me at

The dedication of our community partners, including Camden residents, has inspired me in more ways than you know. It has been a genuine pleasure working with you over the past eight years – planting trees along your streets, revitalizing your parks, and adding fruit trees to your community gardens. THANK YOU for helping me realize the true transformative power of tree planting and urban greening! I look forward to continuing to serve the Camden community through my new role with Camden Lutheran Housing.

Working for the NJ Tree Foundation has been one of my life’s greatest experiences. I will always look back on these years with a huge smile and a warm heart.

With thanks,
Jessica Franzini
A Note from NJTF Board and Staff
While we are sad that Jessica is moving on, we celebrate the accomplishments of her amazing body of work. Eight years, over 3,000 trees planted, several greening projects implemented and hundreds of new friends! Her passionate dedication to the NJ Tree Foundation and the world of urban forestry will be greatly missed. Jess has been an amazing team member and has strengthened and expanded the Tree Foundation’s Camden program immensely. We look forward to partnering with Jess on future projects, and wish her the absolute best in both her personal and professional endeavors.

Thank you for your dedication & friendship Jess!

~NJ Tree Foundation Board of Trustees & Staff

City Trees Available: Camden, Gloucester, and Newark

In Camden, Gloucester City, and Newark, the NJ Tree Foundation is accepting applications from planting partners who want 12-15′ tall trees for their residential streets, school yards, parks, or open spaces this spring. Supply is limited, and we recommend applying by February 3rd to receive priority. You could be our next community project!

“Working with the NJ Tree Foundation was incredible. Not only did I get trees for the front of my home, but most of my neighbors got involved and planted trees too. The entire process introduced me to people in my own community
and made me feel really proud to be a part of something exciting happening where I live,” explained Kathy of East Camden after her 2011 tree planting.

Open Applications Include:
Newark Application 
Camden and Gloucester City Application
Camden Fruit Tree Application (Gardeners Only)

If you have questions or want to discuss your project before applying, please reach out to Jessica (for Camden and Gloucester City) or Elena (for Newark). Jessica can be reached at or (856) 287-4488 and Elena can be reached at or (609) 439-1755.

Trees “Rise Up” in Camden

Marion and her grandmother Shiela

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.

Thank you,donate-button-jpeg
Jessica Franzini
Senior Program Director
Marion’s “Tree of Hope” when first planted in 2012…
…and thriving in 2016

Local CrossFit Gyms Support Tree Planting


The NJ Tree Foundation is proud to announce that Crossfit Aspire and CrossFit DT1, two gyms located in Cherry Hill, have collectively raised over $1,000 to benefit the NJ Tree Foundation’s Urban Airshed Reforestation Program. This program, focused heavily on the city of Camden, plants trees to improve the environment and quality of life in inner-city neighborhoods. Pictured above are coaches Justin, Alycia, Matt, and Sharon, on the bikes used to raise money for trees during the July Charity Challenge.

“CrossFit is an amazing sport,” says Jessica Franzini, who works for the NJ Tree Foundation and does CrossFit. “These gyms care about their members – and not just about their fitness, health, and nutrition, but also about the charities that matter to them.” Aspire and DT1’s generous donation will be used to support street tree and fruit tree plantings in Camden this year, bringing clean air and healthy food to the urban communities that need it most.

Interested in CrossFit? Visit CrossFit Aspire or CrossFit DT1 online or try a FREE class at gym at one of their Cherry Hill locations. This sport is good for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities.

photo-42 copyA tree-lined street in North Camden

FullSizeRender-7Peaches grown and harvested by Camden residents

Trees Thriving with Good Maintenance

“It’s amazing that you’re out here doing this work,” explained Egypt, a Camden resident, as the NJ Tree Foundation pruned dead-wood from her street tree. “The work is so good for our neighborhood. It makes the trees healthier and reminds the community how important tree care is. We all need to do our part.”


This summer, the NJ Tree Foundation will do tree pit maintenance and dead-wood pruning on hundreds of street trees in North Camden, thanks to a partnership with Camden Lutheran Housing and a generous Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit grant.

To make this work possible, the NJ Tree Foundation added a new summer staff member  – Camden resident Michael Taylor, a graduate of the Camden PowerCorps program. “It’s exciting to hire from the PowerCorps work force. Mike is awesome, and he will be a great addition to our team,” says Jessica Franzini, Senior Program Director of the NJ Tree Foundation.

“Tree care may not be “sexy,” but it’s essential,” explains Lisa Simms, Executive Director of the NJ Tree Foundation. “It’s an integral part of good urban forest management.”

Want to hire the NJ Tree Foundation to work in your town? Please contact Lisa at

Camden Tree Wins Regional Photo Contest

The NJ Tree Foundation is proud to congratulate Camden resident Sheila Roberts and her tree of hope for winning this year’s regional Plant One Million photo contest! Competing with entries from 13 counties and 3 states (NJ, PA, and DE), Sheila submitted a photo and essay describing a tree that she and the NJ Tree Foundation planted five years ago as part of the Urban Airshed Reforestation Program.

Sheila wrote, “The willow tree is a symbol of hope for tomorrow. The garden represents a space full of spirituality and dreaming. Peace and relaxation; a silent place to sit while contemplating and relaxing and a place where neighbors come to pray and meditate; to get away from the dangerous streets in the urban ghetto of Camden. The willow tree represents new life for the community, throughout development and change. This tree marks the awakening of Camden in the midst of an urban tree canopy we long awaited in a neighborhood with the potential to be greater than anyone ever expected. Our community members fight poverty every day, yet the willow tree remains a peaceful place in our community, helping our residents to see the importance of our urban canopy.”


DSC01428Tree of Hope at Cooper Sprouts Garden, Camden
Sheila Roberts joined by her family and neighbors

Upcoming Events in Camden

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 2.33.05 PMCheck out these exciting upcoming events, being offered by our partners in Camden!

Newton Creek Clean Up in Camden
with the Tri-County Sustainability Alliance and South Jersey Land and Water Trust
Saturday, April 9th

FREE Soil Testing: Camden’s Soil Shop
at the Parkside Learning Garden
Saturday, April 16th
* Free soil testing done on site *

Smart forum[3]Camden SMART Forum
at Adventure Aquarium
$25 to register, Camden residents free
Wednesday, April 20th

Camden Tree Planting Events
Our spring tree planting season will soon begin in Camden. Join us as we dig holes and plant trees in several Camden neighborhoods. For a full list of upcoming NJ Tree Foundation planting events, please click here.

Who Makes It Happen? Spotlight on Lisa Simms

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.

Volunteers Plant 500 New Trees in NJ Cities

CroppedThe 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 the NJ Tree Foundation has been one of my life’s greatest experiences.”

We are proud to share with you the many communities that benefited from our volunteer-based projects this fall!

Renaissance Trees Program Projects
Columbia Park, Jersey City: 20 trees
Parker Street and Barringer Academy, Newark: 14 trees
S. 30th Street, Newark: 60 trees
Varick Street, Jersey City: 15 trees
Great Commission Ministry Church, Newark: 13 trees
West Side Park, Newark: 20 trees
Clifton Avenue, Newark: 20 trees
S. Charles and Ferry Streets, Newark: 14 trees

Urban Airshed Reforestation Program Projects
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Camden: 15 trees
Northgate II Apartments, Camden: 20 trees
Reverend Evers Park, Camden: 27 trees
Von Neida Park, Camden: 150 trees
N. 8th Street, Camden: 18 trees
Klemm Ave Jogging Path, Gloucester City: 58 trees
Martin Lake Park, Gloucester City: 10 trees
N. 36th Street, Camden: 27 trees
Parkside United Methodist Church, Camden: 10 trees
Farnham Park, Camden: 10 trees

Green Streets Projects
Veterans Memorial Park, Passiac City: 40 trees

Thank you to the partners, residents, donors, and volunteers who made our fall tree planting season a success! We greatly appreciate working with you to transform urban communities with trees.