Volunteer Spotlight – October 2015

Name: Matthew Juszczynski
Volunteering since: 2012
Roles: Living Legend (and all-round cool dude)

History with ReForest London: I started because my wife was in teacher’s college at the time and I needed something to keep myself busy when she was at school or studying (which felt like all the time). I heard about ReForest London and thought that that would be a great way for me to contribute something to my hometown, not only for my own benefit, but also for many generations to come. My first experience volunteering with ReForest London was at the Million Tree Challenge kickoff event in Gibbons Park.

Since then, I have helped plant trees at various locations throughout the city. After our first son was born in 2012, I decided that our community in East London could use some more trees so I contacted the pastor at our church (Mary Immaculate Parish) and principal at St. Robert School, which is across the field from the church. They were on board and as enthusiastic about planting trees and naturalizing the properties as I was. We had an onsite meeting with ReForest London and they walked around the entire property and assessed the location with us. Afterwards, ReForest London provided us with an estimate of how many trees we would be able to plant, which types of native trees and shrubs we would benefit most from using, and where to start in terms of applying for grants and funding.

It seemed like a massive initiative since we were depending 100% on outside funding and we were two private groups. From there, we received approx. $12,500 of funding towards two naturalization sites and an outdoor classroom for St. Robert School, and $5,000 and many TreeCycle trees from RFL for Mary Immaculate parish. On the planting day, Amber and I took a walk down the street over to Nelson Park, which is the neighbourhood park for me and my family. We go there often with our children and dog, and I kept noticing that although it already had trees near the playground, the rest of the large park was pretty sparse.

Amber agreed that it would be perfect for another RFL project and so I contacted Vanessa at the City of London to see what was necessary in order to plant on city grounds. She recommended that we hold an open house to all of the neighbouring residents for input on where they do and do not want trees planted as well as species selection.

It went well and we ended up receiving 30 large caliper trees from the city in November of last year (approx. $15,000) and another $5,000 from TD FEF and the City of London. The turnout at the planting and aftercare events were great, and according to Amber, one of the best that season! The Argyle community is very actively involved in many difference organizations and initiatives, but especially with RFL.

Here’s a breakdown of where our funding came from:

St. Robert SchoolMary ImmaculateNelson ParkAll Projects
TD FEF$4,990.00$5,000.00$2,600.00
Toyota evergreen$3,300.00
City of London$17,400.00

I can’t believe that we’ve managed to get almost $40,000 in grants and funding for trees! It’s pretty crazy when you look back to three years ago when it all began and seemed like it would be impossible to get ANY funding for the church and school. The involvement from our community and support from organizations like RFL is what makes me so proud to be a London boy.

Here’s a breakdown of how many trees and shrubs we planted so far:

  • Mary Immaculate: 103 trees and 14 shrubs = 117 plants in total
  • St. Roberts: (5 trees and 15 shrubs in the reading circle) + (150 trees + 80 shrubs in the naturalization) = 250 plants in total
  • Nelson Park: 10 from your family + 30 from the City + 285 trees and shrubs in the naturalization = 325 plants in total

Grand Total: 692!!!

What’s Next: Our oldest son starts JK next year and I have been talking to ReForest London staff about starting a program within the schools that has every JK starting school plant a seedling with their grade 8 senior “buddy” at the beginning of each school year. Amber, ReForest London’s Project Manager drew up a map and estimates that St. Robert school can plant 450 trees (on top of the 250) which means about 10 years to fill it completely. I think that this is a great way for children to start their education and they can watch and care for their trees as they advance each year. For the grade 8’s, it’s a nice way to give back and leave something behind.