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Tree talk

Perfect weather, blooming flowers, farmers’ markets, food truck gatherings, outdoor festivals… it seems spring is finally here! It’s tedious and tiresome to be stuck in the office or in a courtroom when there is so much to enjoy outdoors.

I used to tease an attorney-friend who would decline volunteering for law-related community service projects on the weekends because she preferred to volunteer her time planting trees. She would refuse to come to Thursday happy hours because she had to finish the requisite “Tree Keeper” courses so she could become a “certified tree planter and pruner.” When she recently earned her certification, she dragged me along to plant trees in our neighborhood. It was my first time partaking in a volunteer project of this sort, as the majority of my volunteer work involves Bar association-related activities.

MVBA trees

Mt. Vernon residents, including the author, pose with “Toby the tree” on Saturday. (Photo: Divya Potdar)

At 8 a.m. Saturday, a group of about 50 volunteers gathered at a local café and gulped down coffee provided by the café for this project. The crowd included people of all ages and professions but individuals quickly befriended each other without thinking twice about their diverse backgrounds because, after all, they were neighbors. Over the span of three hours, 35 new trees were planted along the major thoroughfares of Mt. Vernon. During the planting, volunteers drove around with water and snacks for their neighbors doing the heavy lifting, strangers thanked the community activists for their hard work and an engineer who built a watering contraption on his pickup truck drove around watering the newly planted Zelkovas, Honey Locusts, Lindens and Swamp White Oaks. The morning ended with pizza provided by a local restaurant – and the pizza kept coming until every single Good Samaritan was fully stuffed.

It was great to see such an overwhelming number of people give up their Saturday morning to beautify their neighborhood. Local businesses provided whatever was within their capacity, whether that may be bottled water, granola bars, coffee, pizza, mulch, or engineering skills. I’m sure there are several community organizations similar to the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association that take pride in their locality and encourage local businesses to do the same. The MVBA regularly holds fundraisers at local bars that donate a portion of their drink sales from the evening to purchase equipment and materials necessary to maintain the trees. In fact there is a happy hour fundraiser scheduled at Ryleigh’s Oyster on Cathedral Street tonight (April 13).

Although I enjoy helping with events that expunge criminal records for low income residents, or write wills for veterans, or explain Medicare and landlord/tenant issues to elders, I relished getting my hands dirty and adding four White Oaks to my block. My friend and I also named our quadruplet babies (trees) and say hello when we walk past them. (That’s not weird right?)

So if you need a change of pace from the daily legal grind, look to your local neighborhood association for creative ways of serving your area, meeting new neighbors and having a lasting impact on your community.