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Celebrating 10 Years with Julie Ryan

Trees have always been an important part of my life.  But decades ago as I sat in my favourite childhood tree, dreaming my dreams of the future, I never thought I would be part of an organization that plants trees.

When I moved to London in 2003, I knew that I wanted to be part of protecting the environment. Unfortunately, there is not much work for an environmentalist without any experience or education in the environmental field. Fortunately, I met Bill DeYoung, someone with a passion for the environment, great community connections, and a background in ecology.

We convened a group of Londoners to talk about how we could get more trees in London. Out of this meeting emerged ReForest London. The Urban League of London took on the role of stewarding this new group; under its wide umbrella, we received our first funding. Many Urban League community groups partnered with the brand new ReForest London to plant our first trees in their neighbourhoods.

Two years later, we were ready to move out of the house and become our own organization. ReForest London received charitable status and recruited a very engaged board of directors.

I was the first Executive Director for ReForest London and later became the Director of Programs so I could focus on the things I liked doing most: developing new programs and raising funds to support them. Dean Sheppard, part of the founding board, became our fearless Executive Director.

Fast forward to 2015, as we celebrate ten years of planting and caring for trees in London. With the help of over 30,000 volunteers, we’ve planted nearly 50,000 trees and shrubs across London.

I am very proud to have been part of the team that started ReForest London. I have enjoyed watching it gain the support of the community, try new ideas, form diverse partnerships, and grow to the organization it is today.  I have been privileged to work with many people doing great things in London.

The primary reason I wanted to join the environmental movement was to address the crisis of climate change. My three children, their generation, and the generations to come are counting on me and all of us to make changes in our lifestyles, our communities, and our nation. I have raised my family while working for ReForest London, and my kids’ lives have been greatly impacted by the positive change that we have been making in the Forest City.

It is true that “The best time to plant tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.”  The trees that ReForest London planted 10 years ago are now providing shade for the next generation. The community spirit that created and nurtures ReForest London shares this legacy of health, beauty, and life.

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We already miss you Julie!