Tree Fresno is a volunteer-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the greater Fresno region in Central California. Tree Fresno believes that a first-class physical environment is at the heart of a progressive community that can attract investment and offer opportunity for residents. Trees, trails, parks, greenbelts, and recreational programs provide an increased quality of life that fuels community prosperity. Tree Fresno offers a unique opportunity for citizens to invest in themselves and work together productively.

Tree Fresno hosts the annual Cityscape awards, held at the Clovis Veteran Memorial Building. This interactive community event and fundraiser recognizes private companies and individuals that have invested their own time and/or money to create noteworthy outdoor environments. This year’s event took place this last Friday, on October 28th. Two of the awards given were particularly meaningful to me:   The ‘John Valentino’ Award: Tree Fresno gave the John Valentino award (so named because of my longtime involvement in founding and supporting the organization for 26 years) to the Giving Garden at Rata High School. The Giving Garden is a functional garden producing vegetables, fruit and plants for high school students with disabilities. Many of the students are in wheelchairs. What makes this garden extra special is that it is accessible to all students, regardless of ambulatory ability. The produce from the garden is eaten by the students and any extra is sold at a community market, where students can obtain vocational skills.

Cityscape Award:  The other exciting award was granted by Tree Fresno to Chapel of Grace Garden at the Valley State Women’s Prison. The Cityscape Award honored the organization for its outstanding effort in making an outdoor garden chapel for prison inmates. Chapel of Grace works hard to positively impact and give hope to imprisoned women. Our landscape company constructed and assisted in the design of this garden. The garden was designed as an extension of the existing chapel with spaces for group activities in an amphitheatre, as well as areas to garden or quietly reflect. On a site previously without one tree or plant, a special place has been created for spirituality and self examination. You can read more on the backstory of this project, and see a video about the garden in my previous blog post. We are happy to have taken part in this project! The concept of building a sacred space for those in need of inspiration and validation is a provocative and hopeful concept that could dramatically impact individual lives and our society as a whole. Below are several photos of the Chapel of Grace garden, just beginning to grow and take shape.