About ten years ago, South Chicago resident Karen Roothaan founded Trees R Beautiful in her economically and ecologically distressed neighborhood. Karen, a self-described environmental activist who teaches math to pay the bills, had successfully co-founded an award winning community vegetable garden, the Bush Community Garden of Hope, before going on to start the urban forestry project.
Karen was not your typical tree hugger, however. She made it her mission to raise awareness about the importance of trees, and to recruit others in the neighborhood to assist in the greening of southeast Chicago. The group she founded sent no less than ten local people through the Openlands Project's Treekeeper Program, an intensive study in how to plant, nurture, and maintain trees.
Seeking local support, and in need of an established 501(c)(3) organization to act as fiscal agent, Karen brought her concept to the Southeast Environmental Task Force which enthusiastically embraced and endorsed the project.
Now in its tenth year, Trees R Beautiful was presented with the 2011 Friends of the Parks Volunteer Community Group Award, primarily for their tree plantings and stewardship of the trees along the Burnham Greenway on Chicago's east side.
Recently, Karen passed the leadership of the Trees program on to neighbor and collleague Daniel Estrada, who brings his team of 11 family members to the greening effort, helping to build an organization that will pass to the next generation of southeast-siders.
Pictured Trees R Beautiful Members: Karen Roothaan, David Vance, John Pastirik, Tom Shepherd of SETF, Mary Eileen Sullivan of Friends of the Parks and group leader Daniel Estrada with several members of the Estrada family.