PHILADELPHIA, PA, April 17, 2023 – Today, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is pleased to announce it has received a $50,000 Community Resilience award from Bank of America and the Arbor Day Foundation, which will be used to further efforts to raise tree canopy and bolster environmental equity in Norristown, PA. Norristown is one of PHS’s three priority neighborhoods, or areas of emphasis, in which programming is systematically delivered to advance health, well-being, and equity through gardening and horticulture.
The grant program enables the design and implementation of projects that utilize trees and other green infrastructure to build resilience in low-to-moderate-income communities. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between health and convenient access to natural elements — the more a person is surrounded by greenery, the better their health outcomes may be. Furthermore, a thriving canopy can help mitigate flooding, reduce temperatures to curb the urban heat island effect, improve water quality in critical watershed locations, and filter airborne pollutants in highly industrialized communities.
“We are so grateful to Bank of America and the Arbor Day Foundation for this award, which will aid us greatly in continuing to deliver impact in our priority neighborhood Norristown, PA. We hope to use this funding to create more touchpoints for education on the importance of trees in promoting community health and well-being, as well as work with the Norristown community to develop vital canopy and decrease environmental injustice,” stated PHS’s Director of Trees, Tim Ifill.
As of 2019, US Census data shows Norristown's population is 37.2% Black or African American, 27.9% white (non-Hispanic), 27.1% Hispanic, and 6.4% two or more races. Almost 20% of Norristown’s population lives below the poverty line. Norristown encompasses many neighborhoods with low tree equity scores according to American Forests’ data.
PHS aims to use the grant from Bank of America and the Arbor Day Foundation to create and implement a comprehensive strategy of best practices in community engagement; including authentically listening to and building relationships with leaders and stakeholders within Norristown’s Black, Latino, and other communities of color, and working systematically to target and develop tree canopy in areas with these high-need communities.
In addition to the tree planting work that PHS will oversee, the organization also maintains the PHS Green Resource Center at Norristown Farm Park, a large-scale agricultural community center that includes an urban farm, community garden beds, a greenhouse, and educational space. The facility and team support job training efforts and helps improve food access in the Norristown area. Through PHS’s Tree Tenders program, PHS supports community groups in Norristown, providing education, access to materials, and ongoing support in caring for trees. These efforts will result in 40 new Tree Tenders program graduates who will go on to rally neighbors in planting and caring for trees.
PHS has kept community partnership at the heart of all efforts in the Norristown community. Since 2022, PHS has worked with 2 local community groups, Centro Cultura de Arte Trabajo y Educacion (CCATE) and Colonial Canopy Tree Tenders to grow tree canopy in Norristown. In 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 will continue to grow these partnerships and work collaboratively to advance equity for residents through tree planting efforts. Both groups will continue their mission to plant more trees with a focus on low canopy areas this spring.
“PHS has been a wonderful support and resource in developing tree canopy in the Norristown area. I look forward to seeing how our united efforts this season can create more impact for residents, and with continued partnership, I hope to see Norristown reach its canopy goals and continue to address environmental inequity to create an overall healthier community,” stated Caitlin Brady, member of the Environmental Justice Teaching and Participatory Action Research Team at CCATE.
On Earth Day Saturday, April 22, Colonial Canopy Tree Tenders will be leading a planting of 7 additional bare root trees at Evangel Church in Norristown.
Later this spring, CCATE will be partnering with PHS to hold a Tree Tenders training event at CCATE on May 20, which will train 30-40 new volunteers on how to plant and care for trees in their neighborhoods. On June 3, PHS and CCATE will partner to host a tree giveaway of over 60 trees to Norristown residents with emphasis on high-need areas.
In particular, the CCATE partnership is effectively helping to achieve this grant’s goal of 120 trees planted in low canopy areas in Norristown by Spring of 2023, and CCATE’s collaboration has been invaluable in getting the Norristown community, especially communities of color, involved in these planting efforts that bolster health and well-being for all.
To execute this partnership, PHS has worked closely with the teachers and researchers at CCATE that make up the Environmental Justice Teaching and Participatory Action Research Team, including Caitlin Brady, Diana Lugo, Rosalba Esquivel-Cote, and Gilliam Lorenzo. This team holds weekly after-school and adult programming around environmental justice that incorporates community-based research projects regarding issues that affect their community; including climate change, water quality, indoor and outdoor air quality, lead contamination, recycling and community composting, and now, this tree canopy initiative."Increasing the number of trees and improving green spaces in our region brings many benefits to our community, including carbon capture, protecting against stormwater runoff, and cleaning the air,” said Jim Dever, President, Bank of America Greater Philadelphia. "It is critical that we support the work of increasing the natural infrastructure in disadvantaged communities that are impacted by the effects of a changing climate. The Arbor Day Foundation's program and Pennsylvania Horticultural Association’s continued work is important for creating more sustainable and climate-resilient cities."
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization founded in 1827, uses horticulture to advance the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia Region. PHS programs create healthier living environments, increase access to fresh food, expand access to jobs and economic opportunity, and strengthen deeper social connections between people. PHS’s work spans 250 neighborhoods; an expansive network of public gardens and landscapes; year-round learning experiences; and the nation’s signature gardening event, the Philadelphia Flower Show. PHS provides everyone with opportunities to garden for the greater good as a participant, member, donor, or volunteer.
Founded in 1972, the Arbor Day Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with more than one million members, supporters and valued partners. Since 1972, almost 500 million Arbor Day Foundation trees have been planted in neighborhoods, communities, cities and forests throughout the world. Our vision is to lead toward a world where trees are used to solve issues critical to survival.
As one of the world's largest operating conservation foundations, the Arbor Day Foundation, through its members, partners and programs, educates and engages stakeholders and communities across the globe to involve themselves in its mission of planting, nurturing and celebrating trees. More information is available at arborday.org.
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 67 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 3,900 retail financial centers, approximately 16,000 ATMs and award-winning digital banking with approximately 56 million verified digital users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business households through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories and approximately 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
To learn more about PHS's work planting trees, please visit below.