California ReLeaf Represents Advocacy

Rhonda Berryan interview with

Rhonda Berry

Founding Director, Our City Forest

What is/was your relationship to ReLeaf?

I worked as staff for California ReLeaf from 1989 – 1991 in San Francisco. In 1991, I began work in San Jose to start an urban forest nonprofit. Our City Forest incorporated as a nonprofit in 1994. We are a founding Network member and I served a term on the ReLeaf advisory committee in the 1990’s.

What did/does California ReLeaf mean to you?

It was obvious to me from the beginning that urban forestry was an uphill battle of which there are several fronts: volunteerism, trees, and nonprofits. California ReLeaf just happens to be about all three of these elements. I learned early on that all three require advocacy in order for us to survive, otherwise we are cut. California ReLeaf represents advocacy! California’s urban forestry nonprofits would not be where we are today without ReLeaf and the fact that California ReLeaf’s most important battle and contribution is advocating on behalf of these three aspects. Advocacy is also our link for funding because through the organization we can leverage for funding. California ReLeaf works for us by bringing state and federal funding to urban forest nonprofit groups.

Best memory or event of California ReLeaf?

I really have three great ReLeaf memories.

First is my earliest memory of ReLeaf. I remember watching Isabel Wade, the founding director of California ReLeaf, plead her case as she tried to explain herself and the importance of trees to others. The passion she had as she spoke on behalf of trees was inspiring to me. She fearlessly took on the challenge of advocating for trees.

My second memory is the ReLeaf statewide meeting that took place at Santa Clara University. I was able to lead a Tree Tour and share with other ReLeaf Network groups the work of Our City Forest. And this was back when we didn’t even own a truck yet.

Finally, there is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant. When we received the call from ReLeaf that Our City Forest was selected to be a part of the Recovery grant, that was such a shock. Nothing could really top that feeling. It arrived at a time when we were wondering how we were going to survive. It was our first multi-year grant and it was definitely our largest grant. It was the best thing that could have happened to us. It was beautiful.

Why is it important that California ReLeaf continue its Mission?

For me, this is a no brainer. There has to be a statewide organization dedicated to nonprofits that work in urban forestry. California ReLeaf provides meaningful, proactive, and comprehensive urban forestry programming throughout the state.