Michigan Urban Tree Advocate Named National Volunteer of the Year

Alliance for Community Trees Announces 2012 Winner and Finalists

College Park, MD (February 4, 2013) — Alliance for Community Trees is honored to announce that Dotti Clune, a volunteer with Michigan-based nonprofit Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, has received its 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award. The award highlights inspirational volunteers in action who have made a contribution to urban forestry by improving community trees and the neighborhoods where they live.

Dotti Clune

ACTrees 2012 Volunteer of the Year Dotti Clune, of Grand Rapids, MI

“Volunteers are the heart of local tree nonprofits, providing the resources and energy that make tree planting and care possible,” says Carrie Gallagher, ACTrees Executive Director. “Dotti Clune embodies all the qualities that make for a great volunteer. She’s knowledgeable and passionate about urban forests, and an inspiring leader to those around her.”

As part of the award, Clune (on right in photo) will receive a trip to Washington, DC, this February to attend the ACTrees Policy Summit where she will meet with Michigan’s Congressional delegation to promote the value of trees and green infrastructure for solving urban challenges.

In over two decades of service, Clune has been a tireless advocate for expanding and protecting Grand Rapids’ urban trees. According to Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, “Dotti Clune is a consummate promoter of trees, and an educator of their value in our community. Her efforts have significantly positively affected the City’s outlook and efforts on urban forestry in our community.”

“Dotti is consistently ahead of the curve,” says Lee Mueller, Urban Forest Project Coordinator at Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, who nominated Clune. In 2008, when the invasive tree-killing Emerald Ash Borer was knocking on the city’s door, conventional wisdom led the city to begin preemptive removal of Ash trees. But Clune collected data from leading arborists and gathered best practices from other cities to argue for a treatment strategy, which saved a significant portion of the city’s canopy.

According to Mueller, “Without her guidance, the Urban Forest Project would not be nearly as advanced or productive as it is today. She is a ubiquitous partner among all of our initiatives, efforts, and work with the City of Grand Rapids. Every city should have a Dotti.”

Volunteer of the Year Award Runner-Up

Jim GersbachThe runner-up for the ACTrees 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award is Jim Gersbach (center in photo), who volunteers with Friends of Trees in Portland, OR. Another exceptional volunteer, Gersbach is recognized for 23 years of educating about the importance of a healthy, diverse urban forest not just now, but far in to the future and particularly in the face of a changing climate.

Gersbach has led many tree plantings and helped establish mini-arboretums at two Portland public schools, creating a diverse tree canopy to offset the loss of trees in the neighborhood. “Jim’s dedication to the trees he has planted on school grounds is truly remarkable, as is his ability to work with the principals, teachers, and grounds keepers to make these tree plantings possible,” says Friends of Trees staff member Kris Day.

National Finalists

Every day, volunteers are working with nonprofits in cities across the country to plant and care for trees. Their hard work makes communities cleaner, greener, and healthier. ACTrees is pleased to honor their success by recognizing local Finalists for Volunteer of the Year Award.

As a Tree Steward, Bosworth has led many teams of tree planting volunteers where her leadership skills and love of trees shines. In 2013 she hopes to create an urban wood reuse program for trees that need to be removed.

Bower is the driving force and fundraiser behind the Dane County Legal Community tree planting initiative, which resulted in city staff and volunteer planting 17 trees along a recreational path at a local park.

For her 50th birthday, Braunstein asked, in lieu of gifts, for friends and family to donate time or funds for her tree planting event, which put 21 trees in the ground and transformed a vacant lot into a pocket park. Braustein also helped Camden achieve certification through the Sustainable Jersey program.

As the lead steward for the Bruke-Gilman Trail orchard, Burrill leads monthly work parties with a small group of stewards to remove invasives, spread compost and wood chips, prune and eventually  harvest fruit produced by 22 fruit trees. In 2012 they harvested more than 500 pounds of apples.

Dunbar spearheaded the transformaton of a blighted natural area into an accessible, welcoming, healthy park for the community.  She has also raised over $300,000 to fund restoration and landscaping efforts, and in 2012 partnered with two local community centers to host ten high school students for a year long internship.

As a Tree Amigo, Fang’s primary mode of transportation is his bike. A high school student, Fang has volunteered over 150 hours since 2010 and coached volunteers in planting trees at 16 events. This extraordinary volunteer bikes “everywhere you can imagine” in San Jose to be there for trees and his community.

Lehr has volunteers over 1,800 hours on donor database upkeep and helping with fundraising initiatives, including a Root Ball gala and Clay Shoot. Her efforts alone are estimated to have saved Trees for Houston over $40,000, which translates into hundreds of trees in the ground.

Starbuck has volunteered with friends of the Urban Forest for 31 years and has had a significant impact on the green canopy of San Francisco. Not only has he planted hundreds of trees, but he has educated and inspired many others to do the same.

Congratulations to all the finalists! Learn more about the ACTrees Volunteer of the Year Award and find out how you can volunteer with a tree organization near you to make a difference in your community.