Guest post by Don Willeke, Tree Trust Co-Founder and Director Emeritus.
The best day of my year is not Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, or even (heaven forbid at my age) my birthday. Instead, it is the day in August when Tree Trust holds the Awards Ceremony for participants in its Summer Youth Employment Program.
My name is Don Willeke. In 1976, I helped G. Rolf Svendsen establish the non-profit corporation known as Tree Trust. Rolf and I were looking for ways to deal with the tragic loss of our community’s majestic American elms and to plant new community trees to provide environmental benefits such as urban cooling and pollution reduction. We also knew that the urban youth of Minnesota were suffering seriously in the economy of the mid-70s.
Under Rolf’s leadership, and with help from many people, we put together Tree Trust to employ urban youth who are disadvantaged either economically, physically, or mentally. They work under expert guidance to care for our city trees and public spaces, and thus gain real work skills while improving our beloved Twin Cities’ environment.
Today, 45 years later, Tree Trust is strongly pursuing our goal of “transforming lives and landscapes.” Each August, Tree Trust honors the work of its Career Pathways program participants with a celebration and awards ceremony. These young people have worked on very substantial landscaping and construction projects in cities, parks, and other public areas around the metro. I have the honor of presenting the “Perfect Work Attendance” award to many of these wonderful young people. I tell them: “Save this paper! Make 10 copies right away. Attach a copy to the application for each job you apply for in the next five years. It will really impress your potential employer!” Seeing the pride these young people take in their projects and in the skills they’ve learned makes the awards ceremony the best day of my year!
You, too, can experience the joy I’ve found by supporting these promising young people. If, like me, you are a “Senior,” you can ask your retirement account administrator to make a qualified charitable contribution to Tree Trust right out of your IRA. It will directly reduce the taxable portion of your annual Required Minimum Distribution without affecting any other charitable contribution deductions. I do it every year, in thankfulness for my “Best Day.” You can too! And if you do, let us know and we’ll be happy to invite you to join us in celebrating our community’s young people at our next “Best Day” celebration.
Interested in making a qualified charitable contribution to Tree Trust? Contact Tree Trust Development for more information.