Giving Back to the Universe

When Dolores Reece decided to head an effort to revitalize the greenery in her Los Angeles neighborhood just north of the 10 Freeway, she felt as if it was something she was meant to be doing. A California native, Dolores grew up with a profound appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and our role in preserving it. However, she had been noticing that, either through lack of care or natural causes, trees in her neighborhood were dying. So, in the mid 1980s, when her children went away to college, she decided to rechannel her nurturing energy into replenishing the earth.

During a guided nature walk with the Sierra Club, a naturalist mentioned a newly emerging Citizen Forester Program offered by TreePeople. Compelled by the prospect of uniting with her community to plant trees, Dolores contacted TreePeople to enroll in one of the founding classes of the Citizen Forester Training Program. She reflects on her decision at that moment—“Being a third generation native Californian, I had seen how Los Angeles had changed over the years, indeed not for the better. In 1987, retiring from the Social Security Administration after thirty years, I decided to become a part of the solution.”

As she began to train, she visited her neighbors along Stearns Drive, a short stretch of modest-sized single-family homes, to propose her tree-planting idea. Her proposition was met with enthusiasm; it seemed that everyone wanted to come together and show their pride in their community. This solidarity proved to be very helpful throughout the project. Because of this support, her neighborhood held the largest community yard sale in thirty years—an event that generated funds for the necessary planting supplies. Neighbors’ efforts also resulted in assistance from nearby La Cienega Boulevard merchants, Los Angeles radio station K-EARTH 101 and Kaiser Permanente.

When the day of Reece’s tree planting arrived, she witnessed a block bustling with eager participants ready to chip in. And, in the years following that day, her community has demonstrated the same enthusiasm in continuing to maintain and care for the trees they planted that day. Dolores describes the trees—even more than twenty years later—as a cohesive force that serves as a reminder of the day the people on her block came together to improve their city and their environment.

Inspired by the success of her first event, Dolores continued to revitalize Los Angeles’ urban streets by leading other planting efforts with TreePeople. The latest tree care event took place the weekend before last, and is pictured above.

“Who wouldn’t want to take care of Mother Nature? It’s giving back to the universe for being here, and we’ve gotten away from that,” she states. “It is a natural thing to plant trees, something natural like breathing in and breathing out.”


This blog post was a combined effort of two TreePeople storytelling interns.
Appreciation to both Bethany Ritz and Emma Schiffer.

By Emma Schiffer

Emma Schiffer has been a TreePerson since third grade; she got involved when her class sold popcorn to raise money for Treepeople. Although she wasn't selected to bear the symbolic giant check to Treepeople's headquarters, she harbored no grudges and continued to volunteer with them throughout high school. She currently attends UC Berkeley and is working as Treepeople's storytelling and photography management intern during the summer.