This spring you might have noticed there are a few new trees in public areas in the City of Berea – 38 in fact, thanks to a grant written by local non-profit director Martina Leforce.
Leforce, who is the director of Berea Kids Eat (BKE), landed a grant from health service company Cigna to plant trees in public areas of the city. She consulted with Berea Parks and Recreation Director Priscilla Bloom to find out what kind of trees would be the most suitable and where they should be planted.
Last year the city lost a row of trees that died between the ball field at Berea City Park and the shared use trail bordering the park and the old Gibson Greetings facility. With the grant money Leforce secured, a new row of red bud trees was planted, along with honey locust and Kentucky crab apple trees along Dinsmore Street leading to the new Tillie Park Off Leash Dog Area. Other sites for new trees include the community garden behind Glades Christian Church, as well as another location to be named soon. Most of the trees were planted the week before Easter.
“It was kind of a cool way of working together because the site where we put the red beds had actually lost of bunch of trees there. It worked out really well, and everything is acclimating,” Leforce said.
Berea Kids Eat is a non-profit that serves youths who may lack access to enough healthy food. Having previously worked with Berea Parks and Recreation to stage the Summer Food Program and other food relief efforts at Berea City Park, Leforce said working with the city was a natural fit.
“Any time we’re writing a grant, we always try to think of the City of Berea. If there’s a resource that we can help connect as a non-profit, and with Berea College wanting to partner with the city as much as we can, it just makes sense to keep the City of Berea in our minds,” Leforce said.
After reaching out to Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley, Leforce began working with Bloom and Public Works Director Donnie Davidson, whose staff is assisting in planting some of the trees.
So why is an organization concerned with easing hunger working with the city to plant trees? Leforce said BKE is about community health, and a facet of community health is creating an environment that supports wildlife, pollinators, and which enhances the well-being of citizens by beautifying public spaces.
“For Berea Kids Eat, our focus is on helping to increase healthy food access and also the overall well-being of our community. I think that tree health is a very vital part of that,” Leforce said.
Bloom, who has worked with Leforce in facilitating the Berea Kids Eat program on park property, said Leforce’s idea to plant trees came after the harsh winter killed off the row of red bud trees at the park.
“I love trees and I hated to see them die, but she jumped right in,” Bloom said. “She’s been just tremendous to work with, and we’re so grateful for what she’s done.”
Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley said Leforce’s project is positive in two ways. First, it’s a demonstration of how private citizens, non-profits and local government can work together to beautify the city. But it also demonstrates how the relationship between Berea Kids Eat and the City of Berea has been mutually beneficial.
“It shows not only private citizens’ love for the city, but also the love from private entities and non-profits,” Fraley said. “It shows a desire to not just rely on local government to beautify our city and our surroundings, and it illustrates how our citizens and our business people and our non-profits really want to take pride in our city.”
“I think they [Berea Kids Eat] saw a way they could give back to the city because the city really wanted to provide public space for Berea Kids Eat. To me it reflects that partnerships are two ways, and it reflects the old adage that it is in giving that we receive,” Fraley added.
Fraley also praised Leforce’s initiative to get the grant, which is the latest community improvement project in which she has participated. Leforce helped lobby for the grant for the Chestnut Street Pavilion, a grant for the tourism long-range plan facilitator, and secured a grant to improve John G. Fee Park on Chestnut Street with a water bottle filling station.
“We really appreciate her independent initiative to help us beautify the park and to make it a more attractive space for everyone, and we thank her for that effort,” Fraley said.