By Canopy Team on October 24, 2019
This fall marks Catherine Martineau’s 15 year anniversary since joining Canopy as Executive Director. To celebrate, the Canopy Board and Staff wish to offer a special (and surprise!) reflection, highlighting Catherine’s many accomplishments and her dedication to the work of community forestry in the Midpeninsula.
Fifteen years ago, Catherine joined a small Canopy team that consisted of one staff member and a highly dedicated group of volunteers. Under Catherine’s leadership, Canopy has expanded our work to new cities, developed a multitude of programs, and grown the staff to 9 full-time members and 16 Teen Urban Forester interns, all while nurturing a strong base of committed volunteers and supporters.
Catherine’s influence on the success of Canopy cannot be overstated. Fifteen years of steadfast work and dedication can hardly be condensed into one blog post, but with the help of Marty Deggeller, Canopy Board Member and longtime friend to Catherine, we’ll share a few key highlights:
Branching out into new communities is no small feat for a nonprofit organization. Bringing Canopy’s programs to East Palo Alto required new partnerships, new perspectives, and new funding sources. Yet, from her first day at Canopy, Catherine had a vision of extending services into East Palo Alto and other underserved areas to address the local green gap by bringing the healthy benefits of trees to nature-deprived neighborhoods, and her leadership was able to make that happen.
Marty shares the impact that partnering with East Palo Alto has had on the organization, and in the community:
Marty: “Prior to 2006, Canopy’s work was strictly in Palo Alto, but a grant received from the State of California in 2006 enabled us to do extensive work in East Palo Alto including planting 1,000 trees along the freeway frontage roads and in street medians to help mitigate air and sound pollution. This grant also helped us start the Teen Urban Forester program that has employed dozens of East Palo Alto high school students over the past 12 years, cultivating them as environmental leaders in their community.”
“A subsequent grant provided funding to plant at Ravenswood City School District schools and began the ‘Healthy Trees, Health Kids!’ program that became a model for extending our services into Mountain View and Redwood City. It is no exaggeration to say that expanding into East Palo Alto totally realigned Canopy’s programs and dramatically increased our impact in the local area.”
Special events provide opportunities to gather with like-minded supporters and engage in conversations around trees and community.
In 2006, Catherine’s boldness and vision led to an incredible honor for Canopy: hosting a very special event with Wangari Maathai, renowned Kenyan environmental activist and 2004 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Marty: “When we were planning Canopy’s first fundraising event, the planning committee joked about getting Wangari Maathai as our keynote speaker. We thought our small organization would have no chance of attracting such a notable figure.
But Catherine was not intimidated by this. She contacted Ms. Maathai’s representatives, and invited her to speak both in East Palo Alto and at our fundraising event. It was a huge honor and success.”
As the Executive Director, Catherine plays a vital role in shaping Canopy’s culture and the trajectory of it’s growth. Marty has seen first-hand the ways in which Catherine has helped Canopy become the trusted, established, and effective organization that it is today.
Marty: “When Catherine was first hired 15 years ago, it was for a part-time position. She immediately saw that the job required more commitment and began working whatever hours it took to get the job done. She has continued that approach throughout her Canopy career.
Her dedication demonstrates to all Canopy employees how much she cares. She has created a solid, stable organization of employees who work well together and are enthusiastic about the work they do.
She has also earned a wonderful reputation within the community for her optimistic attitude, sense of humor, and fearlessness in tackling tough problems.
Through her commitment and hard work, Catherine has been able to grow Canopy into a self-sufficient, professional, and highly regarded organization.”
Catherine is a strong believer of the amplifying effect of advocacy, and has led the efforts in educating elected officials, city staff, community leaders and residents on the importance of maintaining a strong urban forestry program. She was instrumental in updating or drafting Urban Forest Master Plans and other tree policy documents in several Midpeninsula cities, including Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Catherine also serves on the board of California Releaf, a statewide urban forestry organization advocating for increased state and federal funding for urban forestry programs.
Thank you, Catherine, for your incredible dedication and ongoing service to Canopy! We can’t wait to see what you accomplish in your next 15 years at Canopy. 🙂
The Canopy Team