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The Flower Show

Leaving a Green Legacy: Mindy Maslin's Impact as the “Tree Lady”

July 06, 2023

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Mindy Maslin

By Melissa O'Brien

Mindy Maslin, Philadelphia's "Tree Lady" and founder of the Tree Tenders program at PHS, has made a profound impact in the world of community-based tree care over her decades-long career. Mindy's journey is a testament to the power of following your passion and the incredible outcomes that can be achieved through dedicated work and collaboration. As Mindy retires from PHS and embarks on the next chapter of her life, she reflects on her accomplishments and looks forward to what’s next. 

“I'm most grateful to the 6,500 people that put the time, energy, and love into the program to become Tree Tenders and carry out the work – those are the real heroes.” - Mindy Maslin

Discovering a Passion for Trees and Education 

Mindy's career path was initially inspired by her love for working with children. As she pursued her degree in social work, she had the opportunity to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, where she discovered the transformative power of nature while taking kids on wilderness canoe trips in northern Canada. The idea of exposing children to the wonders of nature ignited a spark within Mindy, leading her to join PHS in the early 90s as a youth educator in the tree department. 

During a conference at Penn State, Mindy attended a talk by Lynne Westphal, with the U.S. Forest Service, who spoke about the Chicago Tree Keepers, and the effectiveness of citizen stewardship programs. It was a lightbulb moment, Mindy's belief in Philadelphia's potential to foster tree care and community-driven initiatives took root, leading to the birth of the Tree Tenders program. “As a Social Worker, my instinct was to use a neighborhood-based model, training activists to do work in their own communities.. .better for the trees and better for the communities,” says Mindy. 

Notable Accomplishments and Milestones 

Reflecting on her career with PHS, Mindy shared some of the most significant accomplishments she feels proud of. Foremost among them is the remarkable growth and recognition of the Tree Tenders program. From its inception as a Philadelphia program, it has expanded to cover five counties and gained national recognition. The emphasis on community-driven efforts has become a core aspect of PHS's mission, contributing to the program's success. 

Mindy highlighted the transition to planting bare-root trees as a major milestone. This shift enabled more cost-effective and environmentally friendly tree planting, resulting in increased tree root systems and a surge in planting activities. Today, the program boasts well over 100  groups planting over 3,500 trees each year in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.

Another source of pride for Mindy is the bilingual aspect of the Tree Tenders program. By creating a Spanish version and collaborating with organizations like Esperanza, the program has been able to reach communities that were previously underserved. This inclusivity has been a vital step in expanding the program's impact and fostering connections with diverse populations. 

Mindy Retirement cake
Mindy at her retirement picnic





Embracing Change and Future Endeavors 

The decision to retire after dedicating half of her life to PHS was not made lightly for Mindy. “The team we have right now is so strong, so talented, and so passionate that I feel confident that this work will continue and potentially grow in new directions with new leaders,” says Mindy. Believing that the work will continue to flourish under new leadership, Mindy is excited to witness the accomplishments of individuals like Jehane, Asha-Lé, Dana, Tim, Gabriella, and the upcoming addition, Mia.  

While transitioning into retirement, Mindy plans to stay connected to her professional network and remain involved with Tree Tenders. She envisions identifying areas where she can fill gaps, offer support, and continue contributing as a volunteer or consultant. Additionally, she looks forward to focusing more time on projects in memory of her son, Sam Ozer, such as working with her husband on Sam’s Forest, a special restoration project in the Wissahickon and Sam’s Place, a youth bike repair and cycling program. 

Looking back on her career, Mindy feels fortunate to have been able to do what she loves for so many years and is grateful to the thousands of dedicated volunteers who have made that possible. She says, “I'm most grateful to the 6,500 people that put the time, energy, and love into the program to become Tree Tenders and carry out the work – those are the real heroes.” 

PHS Tree Programs are aiding to increase the tree canopy in the Greater Philadelphia region by planting more trees. Learn more about how you can get involved.