Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is tapping the help of youths in the community to help protect the urban tree canopy.
The organization, dubbed Friends for short, said it is partnering with the city of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Urban League and the AT&T Foundation to launch its first Green Team, a paid job for youths, who will steward and maintain newly planted trees.
Friends said as tree planting activities in Grand Rapids have ramped up in recent years, so has the need for ongoing watering and maintenance to keep the trees healthy and growing strong.
“We recognize that Friends is positioned to help fill this need, and (we) want to do so in a way that empowers our community to join in cultivating vibrant green spaces,” said Stephanie Adams, Friends executive director.
With that in mind, Friends collaborated with the city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Urban League to develop a paid summer youth employment program, funded in part by the AT&T Foundation.
The first Green Team is made up of four young people ages 15-20 from the Roosevelt Park area, working part time alongside Friends’ staff to help water nearly 300 trees planted by the organization during the 2019 Mayor’s Greening Initiative. Each of the trees will receive 10 to 15 gallons of water every other week throughout the summer.
The Green Team will play “a critical role” in contributing to the city’s 40% tree canopy goal, Friends said, as well as building job skills.
“Friends is excited about the potential of the program to promote a place-based mentality and foster civic pride among the youth and community,” Adams said.
David Lewis, president of AT&T Michigan, said the AT&T Foundation is “proud to be a part of this collaboration.”
“Making a difference in the communities where we live, work and play is very important to us at AT&T, and we look forward to seeing the impact of this effort in Grand Rapids,” he said.
The city of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department and the Grand Rapids community have been key in helping to make the Green Team youth employment program a reality. Friends hopes to expand this program to include more individuals in future summers.
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is an independent, citizen-led nonprofit enterprise founded in 2008 with the mission to empower people to cultivate vibrant parks, green spaces and trees in our community. More information is at friendsofgrparks.org.