By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Ben Burkhart, a man with a plan for going green, decided to branch out into a non-profit to become eligible for grant money that could help him purchase more trees.
When Burkhart planted a tree on his neighbor’s easement in 2014, the result pleased him so much he decided to plant more trees the next year. After purchasing a dozen trees in 2015 from an Ann Arbor nursery, like-minded people nudged him in the non-profit direction.
The idea took root, and in September 2015 the state of Michigan officially recognized Homes for Gnomes as a non-profit organization. By July, the IRS granted him 501(c)(3) status.
“I am an environmentalist – I care about that kind of thing,” Burkhart said. “But the first tree I ever planted was in 2014.”
He said when he moved to Allen Park four years ago, his “standard suburban lot” did not lend itself to more tree planting.
His neighbor, however, had a double lot, and with her blessing and the city’s permission broke ground for a hybrid maple tree on her easement, the first of many trees he would plant.
“I got a good, happy vibe from it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, this is cool. Not only could I do this again next year, but I could do more than one tree.’”
He planted 12 trees in 2015, with some in parks and some in front of houses. Last spring he planted 16 trees and one lilac bush. He said his goal for his next planting, which will be the first since Homes for Gnomes became a non-profit, will be about 20 trees.
Burkhart said that while the city will remove dead trees, to his knowledge it does not have the budget to replace the trees.
“To plant trees around me and near places where I go, it makes me happy,” Burkhart said. “And it makes me feel like I am doing something.”
To volunteer with the group, or to donate, contact Burkhart at 313-383-6658 or [email protected]. Donations may be mailed to: Homes for Gnomes, 7211 Larme, Allen Park, MI, 48101.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)