By Melissa O’Brien
In an exciting development for the Norristown community, PHS has successfully implemented a $50,000 Community Resilience grant received from Bank of America and the Arbor Day Foundation over the last few months. The collaboration aligned seamlessly with Bank of America's commitment to creating sustainable and climate-resilient cities while addressing the unique environmental challenges faced by historically disinvested communities. The Arbor Day Foundation's expertise and dedication to tree planting initiatives made them an ideal partner in this endeavor.
This grant enabled PHS and our partners to promote environmental equity and improve community health and well-being through extensive tree planting initiatives in Norristown, PA. Learn more about how the development of a thriving tree canopy in one of PHS's priority neighborhoods will provide numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits for the residents.
PHS has kept community partnership at the heart of all efforts in the Norristown community. Our partnership with local community groups, Centro Cultura de Arte Trabajo y Educacion (CCATE) and Colonial Canopy Tree Tenders has helped to address environmental injustice and expand the tree canopy in high-need areas.
Caitlin Brady, a member of the Environmental Justice Teaching and Participatory Action Research Team at CCATE says that learning from PHS about heat islands and heat inequity in different neighborhoods in Norristown was a big motivation to plant more trees. She says: “What we learned from the heat maps PHS provided us is that heat disproportionately affects the neighborhoods where members of the CCATE community, a majority population of Latinx immigrants from Latin America, live. The hidden costs of heat, like health issues, violence, and financial costs of living in a heat island moved members of the CCATE Environmental Justice Research Circle to action and partnership with PHS.”
In the fall of 2022, PHS, CCATE, and Colonial Canopy Tree Tenders planted 29 trees across Norristown and hosted a yard tree giveaway of 70 trees. With this grant, PHS has continued to grow these partnerships and work collaboratively to advance equity for residents through more tree planting efforts in low canopy areas. These efforts have been highly effective, surpassing the initial goal of planting 120 trees by Spring 2023.
The grant has supported a comprehensive strategy that includes educational initiatives highlighting the importance of trees, fostering strong partnerships, and creating touchpoints to promote community health and well-being.
In line with the grant's objectives, PHS organized a Tree Tenders training event at CCATE in May 2023, equipping 14 new volunteers with the necessary skills and knowledge to participate in tree planting and care initiatives. Additionally, a tree giveaway event was held this spring, prioritizing high-need areas and distributing 60 trees to Norristown residents.
These events have successfully engaged the community, empowering them to actively contribute to ongoing tree planting efforts. “Since we began working with PHS, of the 100's of trees distributed in Norristown, over 60 trees have been distributed to members of the CCATE community living in high heat areas of Norristown,” says Caitlin. “The community is interested in these efforts for a variety of reasons, not only due to heat inequity but for the beautification of their neighborhood, food production, and environmental impact. Many of the trees were native and/or fruit bearing, which has a positive environmental impact and provides a small harvest of fruit for families who tend those trees.”
The successful implementation of the Community Resilience grant from Bank of America and the Arbor Day Foundation marks a significant achievement for tree planting efforts in Norristown, PA. By strategically increasing the tree cover in Norristown, PHS and our community partners have created a more resilient and equitable community. Extensive research has shown that access to natural elements, such as trees, has a positive impact on individual well-being and health outcomes. The implemented projects, supported by the grant, have effectively mitigated flooding, reduced urban heat island effects, improved water quality, and filtered airborne pollutants in highly industrialized areas.