A long career in social work gave Cecelia Rich a firsthand perspective on the many issues her community was facing: homelessness, food insecurity, opioid addiction, and disconnection, just to name a few. Realizing that nourishing food is a need that connects us all, she founded “The Village Tree” in 2016 as an urban gardening initiative to nurture the body, mind and spirit.
Her first seed funding came from The Pollination Project. In her application, she wrote “This is literally a grassroots project. We need materials to clear the grass and seeds to take root.”
After receiving this seed grant her work blossomed, and she transformed a two acre vacant lot into a flourishing urban garden space. What started as one woman’s dream now has the support of over 100 community members and a plethora of organizational partners. They host community gatherings, serve as a resource hub for individuals in need, and donate impressive yields of nutritious vegetables to local food banks. Cecelia has created more than just a garden; her work pioneers new ways of thinking about community resiliency, belonging, and sustainability.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get this far if it wasn’t for The Pollination Project who saw my vision and gave The Village Tree its first seed money. It could not be we if not for you,” she shared.
“I’m not a United Way, I’m not a big name, I’m just a tree,” Cecilia said in a recent interview. “And the beauty about a tree is that it has so many branches. And each branch has its purpose and serves its purpose each time. We need to know that we are branches. Each one of us has a gift. Find your gift. Find your niche and grow from it. And that’s what we try to do.”