Meet South Madison’s Neighborhood Planting Captain

When you open yourself up to community, sometimes new and unexpected opportunities emerge. Our multi-season Neighborhood Planting Captain Hettie Greer is a shining example of a local leader leaning in to the power (and fun!) of neighborhood engagement.

Madison is a special part of Nashville: this area boasts an amazingly diverse population, a mix of both rural and urban neighborhoods, interesting music history, and much more. It’s also one of the Root Nashville campaign’s original impact areas of focus to help create a more equitable tree canopy distribution. Because of this, Madison has been an area of particular prioritization for tree-planting: and neighbors have stepped up. We’re pleased to introduce you today to one of these wonderful Captains in Madison: Hettie Greer.

Hettie is not only a highly engaged Captain, but also vice-chair of the South Madison Neighborhood Association. Learn more about her and this area in our Q&A!

Q: To start, tell us a little about yourself! Where are you from and how long have you lived in Madison?

A: I was born and raised in Mississippi, and moved to Inglewood around 15 years ago. I bought a home in Madison with my partner almost 6 years ago.

Q: What do you love most about your South Madison neighborhood? And how did the neighborhood association get started? Why did you want to be involved in the association?

A: Most of the homes here are lovely, large lots. There’s a lot of country music history around every corner, which is a really fun thing to keep discovering! 

I met a neighbor at another neighbor’s party soon after moving in, and our conversations always ended up revolving around protecting our neighborhood from the over-development we were seeing in other areas. He was already getting things in gear for the “official” neighborhood association, and when he asked me to be vice-chair, I couldn’t say no. We worked with our councilmember on several proposed projects, and realizing that I, just another citizen, actually had a voice, was a really cool experience.

South Madison neighborhood boundaries

Q: You are a multi-season, returning Neighborhood Planting Captain! How did you hear about this opportunity in the first place?

A: Because of my neighborhood association involvement, I became connected to Neighbor 2 Neighbor. At their conference, I saw this lady with a cool t-shirt and a sign for free trees (hey, Meg!!) I honestly only approached because I wanted to sign another neighbor up, but when I realized what the mission of Root is and that I could be involved with it, I submitted an application during the next session, and was approved by the end of the day, I think.

Q: What are some of your favorite outreach strategies for spreading the word? What have your neighbors’ responses been like?

A: Definitely the most fun is getting a booth and hanging out at the local farmers market! Posting on the hyper-local Facebook page has been very effective. Door-to-door was very hit or miss my first season, but was much easier this season. What that says about me as a salesperson is another story.

Hettie, left in first photo and middle in second photo, and other Neighborhood Planting Captains from Madison at the local Amqui Farmers Market.

Q: What do you love about trees? Do you have a favorite species?

A: Well, I like being outdoors but I don’t like being in direct sunlight, so trees help me out quite a lot! I love to listen to leaves rustling in the wind, the animals that depend on them, sound dampening, water diversion… I could go on and on! It’s hard for me to name a favorite – magnolia grandiflora, sycamores, live oaks, and loblolly pines are pretty far up there, though.

Q: What would you say about the Neighborhood Planting Captain process to encourage others to apply and bring trees to their own neighborhoods?

A: It is a fantastic way to get involved in your community. You literally have to meet your neighbors!! The absolute best part, though, is walking around my neighborhood and seeing all the trees that would not be there if not for Root providing this opportunity. It’s an amazing feeling. Some of my neighbors have said the same thing; it’s just wonderful to be part of something that’s going to outlast me.

Q: What are you looking forward to most, with this most recent batch of trees that was just delivered to South Madison?

A: I was less excited about digging holes than I am about waiting for spring to see everything start blooming and growing. [Editorial note from Meg: Hettie says she doesn’t enjoy digging holes, and yet she volunteers for all our events and helps her neighbors with their trees as well… hmm… The digging must be worth it!]

We’re so fortunate to work with many incredible volunteers and Neighborhood Planting Captains in Madison. So many have already reached out to ask how they can help in the aftermath of the December 2023 tornado. From the week of December 11 through the first week of January, the Cumberland River Compact team delivered 540 trees to Madison – and we’re hoping to plant even more next season, to help restore the tree canopy that was lost.
Do you live in a tornado-affected area and want to help your neighbors get signed up for free trees next planting season? Learn more about the Neighborhood Planting Captain program here.

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