Dogwood Alliance is a 20-year-old Southern US forest protection nonprofit based in Asheville.
I hear a bird and I hear the water brushing over the dam. The bark of this tree feels cool and smooth. The floor underneath me feels soft, so I’m thinking it’s not just the clay I’m standing on. There must be some leaf litter or pine needles, and everything feels a little wet from the hard rain last night. It smells damp, which is always nice. It’s cool out. Kind of a nice temperature. When you’re walking, you’re not feeling too warm. I hear the geese. I’m thinking there is probably a water body near, which there is; there’s the lake. I hear thrashing in the water. I feel great. It’s always nice to take a walk, and after a walk, you feel refreshed and your mind is clear. -Joele Emma, Director of Education at Asheville Greenworks.
The sun was out when I met the Director of Education at Asheville Greenworks, Joele Emma, at the Hard Times Trailhead. Though it rained all morning, it felt great to pull up to the trailhead, feel the sunshine and meet Joele for the first time!
Asheville Greenworks was founded in 1973 and “inspires, equips and mobilizes individuals and communities to take action to care for the places we love to live.” Asheville Greenworks does this in a number of ways as they have several amazing programs like Bee City Asheville, which works to help educate people and create spaces for pollinators, Waste Reduction, which educates about composting and recycling, the Youth Environmental Leadership Program and many more!
As the Director of Education, Joele finds it very fulfilling to share her knowledge with the many interns she works with. She finds joy in the creativity and flexibility allowed in her job. It's a small program, but with a clear vision and structure, it’s expanding.
Originally from Long Island, she also spent time as a park ranger in California, Arizona, Utah, South Florida and eventually the Blue Ridge Parkway. Joele is very sensitive to the way different types of forests make her feel. She explained:
Redwoods have this immense energy—there is so much massive, living wood there. I felt overwhelmed at first coming into contact with them. When I went to the desert, I enjoyed the desert forests. The openness. You have this pine that may be small but it’s old, and you can see the tenacity of all it’s been through.
Joele is interested in connecting more with Dogwood Alliance. She likes working really closely with other organizations and enjoys learning more every day from these groups by listening and engaging with them.
“Coming to Greenworks has been really important to me,” she said, “Because I think about what I can give. We don’t just have one part that is environmental or social justice, it is what we do. I’m lucky to be where I am.”
We want to thank Joele for spending her Friday morning talking forests with us!