Denver, Colo., May 24, 2010
– This week, a group of seven military veterans will get out into Denver’s neighborhoods with work gloves and shovels in hand – and a load of fresh trees in tow. Their goal of planting 4,600 trees in residents’ yards by August 2012 starts tomorrow. And for many, a path toward a career in urban forestry begins to form.
The veteran crew members represent Veterans City Canopy, an initiative that was recently launched by Denver-based Veterans Green Jobs. The nonprofit organization has a contract with the City of Denver to plant free shade trees in homeowners’ front yards as part of Greenprint Denver’s The Mile High Million program.
Veterans City Canopy was formed specifically to give homeless military veterans seeking gainful employment the opportunity to gain the skills and experience needed to green up our urban neighborhoods through tree planting. Ultimately, the experience provides them with a path toward long-term work in the green jobs economy. Seven vets are the initial enrollees in the program; over the course of the next five planting seasons, 35 vets will have participated.
Veterans City Canopy was launched in early May with a two-week training program, which combined classroom coursework with field training experience. Field training included practice plantings at Denver schools and parks. Last week, the vets canvassed Denver neighborhoods, including Washington Virginia Vale and University Hills, to find homeowners interested in receiving free trees for their yards. Informational fliers with return cards have been sent to nearly 1,000 eligible homes in Highlands, City Park, City Park West, and Harvey Park, and canvassing will continue as followup in those neighborhoods.
Homeowners who agree to receive the trees don’t need to do a thing, says John Arigoni, Veterans City Canopy’s program manager, “Except agree to care for the trees – and then enjoy the shade.”
While homeowners will receive the benefit of shaded, cooler homes and lower utility bills in summer, veterans gain an opportunity to prepare for career opportunities in urban forestry.
“I studied soil sciences and forestry at Ohio State,” says Frederick Sales, a Veterans City Canopy program crew member. “Here I am today at 55 years of age. This work is making me feel youthful again because it’s what I intentionally wanted to do in school. As for the future, I would like to have my own crew some day.”
According to Arigoni, this innovative program could become a model for urban canopy initiatives across the country. “Working in partnership with the City of Denver, this program is a way to achieve our own goals of helping military veterans transition to a job in the green industry, while adding to the quality of life of Denver’s residents,” he says. “It’s a model I think we could successfully replicate in other cities.”
In the Denver metro area, 11,061 people were counted homeless as of January 27, 2009. Of these, 986 people, or 13 percent, indicated that they had served in the U.S. military.
During the course of the Veterans City Canopy program, veteran participants live in transitional housing provided by the Denver County Homeless Vets Reintegration Program.
Homeowners interested in ordering a free tree should call The Mile High Million at 720-913-0681.
Veterans City Canopy is currently seeking landscape contractors in Denver interested in considering employment opportunities for these veterans once the program is complete. Contact John Arigoni: 720-236-1309 / email@example.com.