TreeFolks mission is to empower Central Texans to build stronger communities through planting and caring for trees

Community Building

Community Building

Since 1989, TreeFolks volunteers and staff have planted over 2 million trees in Central Texas at schools and parks, in medians, right of ways, community gardens, and greenbelts.



TreeFolks works to restore forests in the urban-wildland interface after natural disasters such as the devastating Blanco River floods of 2015 and the forest fires of 2011 in Bastrop County.



TreeFolks provides free, year-round education opportunities including sapling giveaway tabling events, tree mapping, and tree identification walks.

Urban Forest Building

Urban Forest Building

TreeFolks has partnered with the City of Austin to place over 50,000 trees on private land in the urban core through tree giveaways and consulting for Austin residents.

TreeFolks Annual Report

TreeFolks Strategic Plan

Our Hard Working Team

Board Members

  • Bettina Dahl
    Bettina Dahl C3 Presents
  • Abi Shirley
    Abi Shirley Holtzman Partners
  • Alexa Loken
    Alexa Loken Loken Careers
  • Yvonne Massey Davis
    Yvonne Massey Davis Public Engagement
  • Kim Williams
    Kim Williams Travis County
  • Kimberly White Erlinger
    Kimberly White Erlinger E3 Properties
  • Margaret Valenti
    Margaret Valenti City of Austin
  • Kris Swanson
    Kris Swanson DCI Engineers
  • Amy Voorhes
    Amy Voorhes InsideOut Garden Design
  • Renee Welsh
    Renee Welsh Skillpoint Alliance


  • Marcus Gore
    Marcus Gore Studio Robins Dempsey


  • Rich DePalma
    Rich DePalma Strategic Partnerships

    Vice President

  • Mary Ann Neely
    Mary Ann Neely Environmental Consultant


How we got started

During a celebration of the Winter Solstice on December 21, 1988, a group of Austinites had a vision. They were concerned with global warming and deforestation, and wondered if planting trees could be a solution to address these issues locally. Thus, TreeFolks was born.

Shortly after, a group including TreeFolks founders Ken Gaede, Dave Kettler, and Mark Dameron agreed to each plant one tree in Austin. Dave Kettler started by planting a tree in his front yard. At their next meeting, the group compared notes on the trees they planted. They realized that with their combined passion and effort, they could create something bigger.

“We wanted to be like a rock, dropping in a pond, and create the ripples,” says Ken Gaede.

In January of 1989, the group officially planted their first tree at a nursing home in Bastrop. “You could say we weren’t TreeFolks then….but you could say that was the first tree planted by the group,” says Ken.

From there, they agreed on the name.   “We were about trees and were just plain folks,” says Dave.  The group approached then-City Forester John Giedraitis about how to get started. John helped the group find contacts and the trees.  From there, they began planting at schools and other public sites.
John suggested they plant trees in street medians, starting with Stassney Lane in South Austin. TreeFolks managed the volunteers and outreach; the City of Austin dug the holes; and Jack Brown Cleaners provided funding. Those same trees on Stassney Lane continue to thrive today.

TreeFolks officially became incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit on August 30, 1989. In the early 1990s, they were invited to attend a national tree conference in Washington, D.C. where they connected with federal funders who awarded the first grant allowing TreeFolks to hire its first Executive Director and first paid staff member.

Since then, TreeFolks has grown to work with communities throughout Central Texas in community tree planting, street tree and backyard tree giveaways, education and urban-wildland reforestation efforts. From a single acorn has grown a canopy to shade communities in Austin, Bastrop, and Hays Counties, and serve thousands of Texas’ people.