Forest ReLeaf of Missouri

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Published on: Sep. 18, 2013

with Ric Mayer, Joplin’s forestry recovery coordinator, to determine seasonal needs.

Sometimes staff has the opportunity to be part of the reforestation process. This year, on Oct. 4, as they did last October, employees from Forest ReLeaf and Ameriprise Financial will accompany the trees to Joplin and help with the planting efforts. To date, Forest ReLeaf has given Joplin more than 3,000 trees, and has plans to send another 1,700 or more in the next year. Businesses interested in supporting this cause may be eligible to receive Missouri Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits for their donations to Forest ReLeaf.

Forest ReLeaf’s work in Joplin has included more than tree delivery. As the nonprofit partner a new educational space and healing garden in Cunningham Park, the organization is helping to create an “open space, sacred place” for survivors and visitors. Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture students designed this new Butterfly Garden & Overlook, funded by a grant from the TKF Foundation. Research partners include Drury University, Cornell University, and the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Station.

Education and Outreach

Giving away trees only works if people are educated on how to plant and care for them. Walsh works with the recipients to make sure they plant the “right tree in the right place,” accounting for utilities, soil, and other conditions. All recipients are given instructions on proper planting and care techniques.

Walsh, an International Society of Arboriculturists (ISA) Certified Arborist and winner of the 2012 ISA Midwestern Chapter Award of Merit, gives frequent lectures on a variety of tree topics. In addition to the annual TreeKeepers course, he also teaches classes on forest ecology and soils, tree identification, and tree biology through Missouri Community Forestry Council, St. Louis Community College, and through the Missouri Botanical Garden.

In partnership with the Department of Conservation, Forest ReLeaf also administers the Missouri Forestkeepers Network ( This network, open to individuals, landowners, and educators, provides information and education to its members regarding ways to enhance and sustain our trees and forests. Currently, there are more than 2,600 members, representing nearly every county in the state, who report on activities such as removing invasive species, installing food plots, conducting youth outreach programs, and completing mast surveys. Membership is free and includes a number of benefits, including the quarterly Forestkeeper Monitor newsletter, workshops, conferences, and thank-you incentives.

Roots in the Community

Because of the nature of their tree distribution, Forest ReLeaf routinely works with partners across the state. To get trees to Joplin, they work closely with Department foresters and city officials. Together with City Academy in North St. Louis they are piloting a new education stewardship program for elementary school children. Their collaboration with Brightside St. Louis was instrumental in helping to create the award-winning Brightside St. Louis Demonstration Garden, which was designed to cultivate environmental stewardship.

Along with several corporate partners, their board of trustees consists of individuals who are influential in area tree concerns. Among them are: Greg Hayes, commissioner of forestry, City of St. Louis; Bill Reininger, park operations manager, Forest Park Forever; Tom Ott, director, St. Louis County Parks and Recreation; Rick Schenk, superintendent of vegetation management, Ameren Missouri; Sheila Voss, vice president education, Missouri Botanical Garden; and serving ex officio, Cathy deJong, forestry regional supervisor, Missouri Department of Conservation. Perhaps bringing things full circle, Mary Sherfy, Forest ReLeaf’s first executive director, joined the board in 2011.

Future Plans

The organization is working on a 20-year sustainability plan that may include further expansion of the nursery, a biodiversity greenhouse, and construction of a new education center and outdoor classroom. Continuing to build upon existing collaborative agreements, such as the one with the Department of Conservation, as well as cultivating new funding partners, will be a key factor for Forest ReLeaf’s long-term success.

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri – By the Numbers

Forest ReLeaf’s homegrown trees are helping to enhance the urban tree canopy in 65 Missouri counties. More than 800 community groups have participated in the free tree distribution programs, receiving more than 100,000 trees and shrubs for 1,387 separate planting projects. Volunteers are critical to the organization’s success. In the past year, 325 nursery volunteers contributed 5,253 hours caring for the thousands of trees growing at CommuniTree Gardens Nursery.

Contact Information

Forest ReLeaf of Missouri

(Office Address)

4207 Lindell Blvd., Ste 301,

St. Louis, MO 63018




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Twitter: @forestreleaf

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