Just three 3 miles from the trendy shops and construction cranes of Downtown LA’s Arts District, there’s a different kind of change at work in the community of Huntington Park. Where not that long ago only sun-baked sidewalks sprawled through the city, now there are blocks and blocks of tree-lined streets and a small army of school-aged volunteers mobilized to care of them.
On any given weekend, TreePeople’s Regional Manager, Cristina Basurto partners with local youth to plant, water and care for trees they plant to provide a greener future, cleaner air and a healthier community for residents. And the movement is growing. Cristina has just staffed up a new Regional Tree Care Team to sustain the hard work her and local volunteers have invested.
There are big plans for Huntington Park, over the next few years, Cristina will be expanding her program to plant 1,400 more trees in her city with the help of her new team, who also call Huntington Park their home.
Enter Miguel Vargas, Alejandra Amezcua and Roberto “Kobe” Leon who’ve together volunteered over 650 hours planting and caring for trees in Huntington Park. Their work goes further in their new role as TreePeople’s Regional Tree Care Team– they also serve to feed community relationships.
“To me, this is about change,” Vargas said, “I want to see the people here become united. When the community is united we work better than as individuals. Your neighbors, the people who surround you, they can make a difference in not only who you are but your environment as well. When we started, everything was dry, everything was suffocating, but now that we’ve come together to plant these trees the difference is instant. It’s cooler, it’s green. I feel like I can breathe.”
Since beginning this project in 2014, Basurto has mobilized over 250 neighborhood youth to plant 324 new trees in parks and along city streets.
“We’re doing something to change not only the quality of air but the quality of life,” adds Amezcua. “It’s nice to have that connection where people can come up to talk to each other and do things for each other again. The best thing TreePeople has done, not only for me but also for so many in this neighborhood, is break down that communication barrier. Instead of thinking about me and my needs, my first reaction now is ‘How can I help you?’ or ‘What do you need?’ The fact that we can all speak to each other again is wonderful.”
Not ones to rest on their accomplishments, Basurto and her crew plan to round out 2017 with 13 more planting events in Huntington Park, making the total trees planted for the year more than all previous years combined. You too can be a part of this truly momentous change.