The heart of a volunteer resides in everyone.
Like many, if not most people, Richard Beauchamp had never written a grant—until he wanted to plant some trees in his community, the City of San Luis Obispo, CA.
A couple of months ago, on a chilly January evening, I was sitting in the main meeting room of the Ludwick Community Center attending a meeting of the SLO Climate Coalition, when without any fanfare, Richard announced that the Coalition had been awarded a $24,000 California ReLeaf grant to plant 120 trees in San Luis Obispo.
I said, “Wow, that is so cool!” or something along those lines. While Richard was acknowledging the help he had received in preparing the grant, I was thinking, “This is a perfect example of what “regular” people can accomplish when they are passionate about getting something done.”
Almost instantly, I knew I wanted to write about Richard’s story on behalf of the Coalition so I approached him during the breakout sessions and we arranged to talk on the phone to flesh out some details.
A wonderful thing about Richard’s story is that it could be anyone’s story.
Of course, talking to Richard directly would be the best way to get to know him and find out what motivated him to raise his hand and say “I’ll do it.” but he is rather busy right now working on the tree-planting implementation plan, so I will get the story started. At the end of the post, I will provide information about how you can volunteer to help Richard plant trees.
I believe that each one of us has superpowers just waiting to be unleashed in the service of things that matter to us. Imagine what we could accomplish collectively if each one of us used their unique gifts to make the world a better place for everyone.
Before we get to Richard and the grant, it will be helpful to provide a brief background about the SLO Climate Coalition.
San Luis Obispo (SLO) Climate Coalition
In January 2017, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to give climate action a high priority as one of the 2017-2019 major city goals (see page 3).
Later in the year, a group of interested citizens approached the City offering to establish a community organization to assist the City in achieving its climate action objectives. These dedicated people formed a task force to provide leadership for the newly created San Luis Obispo (SLO) Climate Coalition.
This all-volunteer organization is open to people interested in climate action and helping the City of San Luis Obispo achieve its climate action goals.
Meet us in the post entitled, SLO Climate Coalition – Our Kids are Counting on us.
Carbon Neutral by 2035
If you live in or near the City of San Luis Obispo, you may remember hearing or reading about the City Council’s September 18, 2018 decision to establish an ambitious goal to be carbon neutral by 2035 (see page 6).
Briefly, that means either producing zero carbon emissions (like CO2 and methane) or reducing some emissions and offsetting the remaining emissions by sequestering carbon in the soil, trees, and regenerative agricultural fields.
The SLO Climate Coalition is now actively supporting the City’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2035. You are welcome to join us.
Now, let’s meet Richard and learn about the California ReLeaf grant.
Meet Richard Beauchamp
When I met Richard in mid-October 2018, he had already been attending SLO Climate Coalition meetings for a month or so.
It was my first meeting.
The task force chair, Eric Veium, seemed like a nice guy (he is) until he asked us to take three minutes to introduce ourselves to people we did not know. For a shy, introverted person like me, talking with a stranger for three minutes seems like forever.
Thankfully, the first person I met was Jenny Anderson, a delightful and friendly woman who I immediately liked. Next, I met her husband Richard Beauchamp, a tall man with a lovely smile who said he was interested in natural climate solutions (in other words he is a tree hugger).
I later learned a bit more about him.
Richard is a regular guy living in San Luis Obispo with his wife and daughter (his son lives in Davis). He has a full-time job as the Chief Technology Officer for a startup company that creates chat software for the healthcare industry.
He has been living in San Luis Obispo for about two and half years and is fully immersed in the activities that make this such a great place to live like hiking, surfing, kayaking, enjoying the wine country, and eating delicious meals at local restaurants.
A month or so ago, when I asked Richard why he joined the Coalition, he said that after learning about the City of San Luis Obispo’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2035, he was inspired to combine climate action with his love for trees.
Trees bring nature, biodiversity, and beauty into a neighborhood while providing shade, filtering rainwater, improving air quality, recharging groundwater basins, and sequestering carbon. San Luis Obispo aims to sequester 10% of the City’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its urban forests and greenbelt open spaces. This means planting more trees, which costs money.
Last year, when Richard learned of a tree-planting grant opportunity being offered by California ReLeaf, he volunteered to take the lead for preparing the grant application on behalf of the Coalition and the City. Both Thanksgiving and the grant deadline were quickly approaching.
California ReLeaf Grant
Founded in 1989, the nonprofit California ReLeaf mission is “to empower grassroots efforts and build strategic partnerships that preserve, protect, and enhance California’s urban and community forests.” They fulfill their mission by providing education, advocacy, grants, workshops, and conferences.
Fortunately, for first-time grant-writer Richard, California ReLeaf put on a webinar for the community groups that were vying for grant money that explained the grant process and how to complete the required forms.
He received assistance from Bob Hill and several people who work for the City of San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly botany professor Matt Ritter recommended tree species suitable for the San Luis Obispo urban environment that could handle the climate, compacted soil, being surrounded by concrete, stormwater runoff, and heat rising off pavements. The City’s urban forestry team offered to fulfill the requirement for matching funds.
One thing Richard learned quickly is that the entire project would need to first be planned and budgeted and then documented in the application. This included determining costs for 120 trees, supplies and equipment, preparing a project plan and a timeline for planting trees, and creating a plan for recruiting and supporting volunteers. Whew!
Once the grant application was submitted, the waiting began. Richard’s mind was already racing head. What if the grant came through? He would have to buy trees, rent equipment, engage neighborhood stakeholders, organize volunteers, and plant trees.
He discovered and reached out to Friends of Trees, a Portland-based tree-planting organization that has planted over 750,000 trees since it was founded in 1989 by a community member who loved trees. They invited him to come to visit and attend training about all the things he would be doing if the Coalition was awarded the ReLeaf grant.
Richard submitted a follow-up document informing California ReLeaf about the Friends of Trees training opportunity and requested funds to cover travel and accommodation costs. Since San Luis Obispo does not currently have a community-based urban forestry group he said he hoped the grant would provide an opportunity to start building such a group.
Not long after, Richard received word that California ReLeaf had awarded the Coalition a $24,000 grant. Of course, I cannot prove it, but I do wonder if Richard’s extra initiative sealed the deal.
Grab a Shovel and Let’s Plant Trees!
Now, you have an opportunity to unleash your inner volunteer by helping Richard plant some trees. Contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org or just show up at the next SLO Climate Coalition meeting (schedule on website) and talk with Richard directly.
If you do not want to plant trees, that is okay. The Coalition needs and welcomes community members with diverse interests and abilities who want to take action to protect this beautiful place on the California Central Coast for the people who live here now and the people who will live here in the future.
See you soon.
Photo at Top of Post: The image of the magnificent oak tree along the Bishop Peak trail in San Luis Obispo, CA was provided by SLO Climate Coalition Outreach leader, Justin Bradshaw.
Park Photos: I got the photos of the three parks from the City of San Luis Obispo’s Facility Directory Standard Map webpage.
- California ReLeaf
- Carbon Neutrality – Wikipedia
- City of San Luis Obispo Climate Action
- City of San Luis Obispo Urban Forestry
About the Author: Linda Poppenheimer researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same. She writes as The Unlikely Environmentalist at Green Groundswell.