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Who are LEAF and what do they do?

COURTNEY McCLURE,

The Standard

NORTH DURHAM: Have you ever heard of LEAF?

Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF) is a non-profit organization, started by Janet McKay, founder and executive director. LEAF teaches people across North Durham and beyond about trees, to get them excited about urban forests.

LEAF plants various species of trees in people’s backyards and in public spaces.

“We envision healthy, vibrant communities, where everyone values and cares for the urban forest,” wrote LEAF.

An urban forest is a collection of trees (or a forest) growing within a city or urban area, like a suburb. An urban forest may include “woody” plants growing around where people live.

The main goal is to grow and sustain the urban forest, by providing programs and services throughout the community.

Ms. McKay started LEAF because she felt inspired to assist her neighbours, ones who were living in Toronto’s east end, by planting native tree species. She started distributing small seedlings, which quickly became popular among residents. Most of these seedlings did not reach maturity or survive.

Ms. McKay learned from this experience. Then she developed the Backyard Tree Planting Program (BYTP). This project aimed to overcome limited tree survival rates during planting sessions.

So, she gathered a small, trained, team to plant trees and maximize their (the trees’) potential growth, hopefully seeing saplings to maturity.

Throughout the years, interest and demand for LEAF grew, expanding, so it could include educating the public. It also involved introducing other activities to further engage the community. For example, LEAF has run a program called the Tree Tenders Volunteer Training Program, for over a decade (since 2006), and also offers educational programming and presentations, and much more.

The staff and volunteers at LEAF have many values, including accountability, diversity and inclusion, communication, support and care. There are many annual volunteers and participants from the community. These members help increase stewardship and awareness about the urban forest.

Regardless of where someone stands “within the organization community”, LEAF recognizes their value and embraces different strengths.

LEAF strives to be self-aware, acknowledging their own mistakes and working to improve themselves. They also recognize the strength and value a diverse team of people brings to the table. So they do their best to acknowledge various experiences and learn. They try to be as direct and communicative as possible with their team members and volunteers.

Interest in LEAF’S BYTP has increased and flourished. According to them, this is because, people are recognizing how private property tree plantings play an integral role in expanding the urban forest.

LEAF offers the BYTP within Toronto and several other municipalities outside of the Scugog and Durham Region. You can find a full list on LEAF’s website.

To learn more about LEAF and what they do, you can check out their website by visiting: yourleaf.org.

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