A Gift of Trees in Honor of Tom Spencer

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The future of Austin’s urban tree canopy and the legacy of former TreeFolks Executive Director Tom Spencer have received a Spring boost.

Austinites Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge have given $250,000 to the Tom Spencer Million Trees for Austin Fund to benefit TreeFolks’ reforestation work. 

The gift was inspired by the couple’s love of trees, their connection to Spencer, and their shared appreciation for our natural world, and embracing their roles as stewards of our ecosystem.

The couple’s home was featured on an episode of Central Texas Gardener on KLRU in June of 2014. Lynne served on the Board of Directors of Interfaith Action of Central Texas (IACT) while Tom was Executive Director during a critical time of growth for the organization. 

The connection between the couple and TreeFolks was further cultivated by Richard Craig, founder of the Pease Park Conservancy and now Vice President of the TreeFolks Board of Directors. Craig, a close friend of Spencer’s, says, “TreeFolks may be one of Austin’s best-kept secrets, but offering the opportunity for good people in our community to support them will help bring the light of TreeFolks’ amazing work out from under a bushel.”

The Tom Spencer Fund was established in 2020 by TreeFolks through the Austin Community Foundation to support its long-range goal of planting another million trees in the Austin area – a vision promoted by Tom during his brief tenure as Executive Director of TreeFolks.

In its 30-year history, TreeFolks has planted and distributed nearly three million trees and plans to reach the next million-tree milestone within the next five years.

TreeFolks is now under the guidance of Executive Director Andrew Smiley. With partners, collaborators, and community volunteers, TreeFolks continues to lead urban tree planting projects, tree adoption events, and educational programming. TreeFolks also operates an ongoing, large-scale multi-year reforestation program that not only builds resilience in the region but generates Carbon+ Credits to help the City of Austin and local businesses meet their carbon-reduction goals. 

Following post-disaster reforestation work in Bastrop after the devastating 2011 wildfires and along the Blanco River after the 2015 floods, TreeFolks has redoubled its efforts to address both the causes and effects of climate change. Wooldridge hopes to see TreeFolks expand on that work, which he refers to jokingly as Tree-silience. “Trees are one of the best things we can do to ensure the sustainability of our planet,” explains Lynne, adding, “Education is key, and by supporting TreeFolks, we are honoring our friend Tom, we’re helping to plant trees, and we are also encouraging other people’s awareness and understanding of the importance of trees.”

 

Spencer is well known in the Austin area as an environmentalist, nonprofit leader, and for his work on Central Texas Gardener. Shortly after taking on the role of Executive Director at TreeFolks, Tom suffered a stroke. His call to action still resonates in the community – Plant trees, plant hope – while his recovery is ongoing. 

For additional information about TreeFolks’ mission and programs, to learn about Tom’s million-tree vision, and to make a contribution in support of the Tom Fund, visit https://www.treefolks.org/tom-spencer-million-trees/.