The Greening of Detroit

Detroit, Michigan

Story Overview

Founded in 1989, The Greening of Detroit is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring Detroit’s majestic canopy of trees, which were displaced by urbanization, Dutch Elm disease and neglect for more than 50 years.

Executive Director Lionel Bradford, who joined the organization in 2002, came to Detroit to put his experience and education in urban forestry to work for the benefit of the community. The organization does more than plant trees (more than 140,000 of them since the organization’s founding).

The Greening of Detroit is also a major contributor to job training and job growth in the city, employing an average of 200 high school students each summer and training more than 700 adults since 2010 in tree care, landscape services and stormwater management.

The organization also works with more than 3,000 volunteers annually to help plant and maintain thousands of trees each year. It’s this activity that was especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as shovels and boots gave way to virtual trainings. The organization still had thousands of trees to plant and had to incur extra expenses to do so without its dedicated volunteers.

As grant funding dried up during the pandemic, Bradford knew that he needed a way to keep the organization’s 16 employees if The Greening of Detroit was going to weather the pandemic and keep planting trees in the city. Without a large volunteer corps, keeping employees was key to continuing the organization’s mission.

The Greening of Detroit received its first PPP from CRF in May 2020 after experiencing a backlog of applications at their bank. Bradford found CRF after hearing a radio news story about how Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan would be working with CRF to help Detroiters get PPP loans. After completing the online application and speaking with CRF, according to Bradford, it was a smooth and fast process.

Then, when second-round funding became available, Bradford went straight to CRF and received a second draw loan for continued payroll support. Again, the process was easy and even faster than the first round.

With a wide-ranging mission that goes beyond tree planting, The Greening of Detroit will continue to provide its full range of services and inspire measurable social and economic impact through both direct action and supportive services in the community. Without PPP, this 30-year-old organization may not have survived to see its urban forests flourish well into the next decade and beyond.

When we first found CRF and realized we would be able to get a PPP loan, it was beautiful. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate the team at CRF and the help they gave us. We’ve been around a long time and may have had to lay off people, if not close, had we not been able to get a PPP loan. Thank you, CRF!

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