PHOENIX — Although Earth Day is one day to recognize our impact on the planet and find ways to make a difference, several organizations have been shedding light on these issues year-round.
Trees Matter, which is dedicated to inspiring, promoting, and increasing the tree canopy in the Valley, started a project in December to highlight these concerns, among others.
"The hardest place to plant are the places that need it the most," says the Executive Director of Trees Matter, Aimee Esposito.
This has been the case for decades in south Phoenix, one of the more vulnerable areas in the Valley when it comes to heat and now the pandemic.
"This is a place for us to do that while also providing that important shade and food for the community here in a place that has been impacted much more than other parts of the Valley."
The "Resiliency Project" is being implemented at the Spaces of Opportunity community garden in south Phoenix. So far, 10 citrus trees have been planted, but 90 more will cover the area later this year, bringing much needed relief from the heat while also acting as a memorial to those we lost due to COVID-19.
Each tree will carry the name of those impacted.
"We haven't had a lot of opportunities to really reflect and recognize the gravity of how many people, how many amazing people, and celebrate their lives, that we've lost over the last year," Esposito said. "We're planting trees for now, but we're also creating that legacy for these people and just for the future of the Valley."
Trees Matter couldn't attack this endeavor alone, though.
This is where Darren Chapman and his group, the TigerMountain Foundation, comes in. They see the value in planting fruits and vegetables in formerly vacant lots, cultivating food and better communities, which historically have been underserved.
"We've consulted over 100 organizations on how to build their community gardens, how to galvanize and mobilize that community, and to put this community-building through community gardening together," Chapman said.
With Trees Matter planting 100 food-bearing trees, Chapman and the foundation saw the partnership as a win-win.
"The Resiliency Project is so worthwhile, covering the systemic and pandemic issues, and these beautiful trees are going to help us change the narrative in our community."
Trees Matter is accepting donations and more names to be added to the 100 trees at Spaces of Opportunity, honoring those affected by COVID-19.
If you'd like to contribute, click here.