Five Things She Hopes for Our Community

Dec 3, 2018 | Survival Skills

From a young age, Lisa Dettlinger served her community. “I remember walking up and down the street with my mom and dad helping them collect for AmVets and the Heart Association,”  Lisa says. “By the time I was 13, I had 400 volunteer hours at the VA hospital.”

Growing up with parents who were such active volunteers, the Louisville native says that at first, she didn’t realize nonprofit work could be someone’s actual job. Early in her career, Lisa pursued her passion in art and worked as an interior designer. But when she lost her job in 2008, she decided to volunteer with a local nonprofit while job searching. That became a turning point with a job at the Center for Neighborhoods.

After working at other nonprofits, last year Lisa found a great fit for her environmental passion with local nonprofit Louisville Grows.

“At Louisville Grows, our mission is about urban agriculture, urban forestry, and environmental education,”  says Lisa, who serves as programs director. That means planting trees. Lots of trees. “Our current goal is to plant 1,000 trees in a season, with two plantings, one in fall and one in spring.”

Louisville Grows, the only local organization that plants trees on private property, works primarily in 21 underserved West and South Louisville neighborhoods where the tree canopy has suffered a significant loss. Educating neighbors on the value of having trees is part of the process.

In addition to aesthetics, “trees help with energy bills and improve air quality,” Lisa says. Jefferson County has one of the highest rates of asthma, and as an asthma sufferer herself, Lisa says, “I know what it feels like not to be able to breathe and to breathe clean air. That’s why planting trees is really important to me.”  

An extension of tree planting initiative is the Citizen Forester program, which trains volunteers to plant trees and lead teams of volunteers on tree planting days. “Citizen foresters are the rock stars of our volunteers,”  Lisa says. “There is no way we could plant that many trees with just our staff.” The tiny staff at Louisville Grows includes two full-time positions (the executive director and Lisa), two part-time staff, and four AmeriCorps Vista interns supervised by Lisa.

Louisville Grows also works with 15 to 20 community gardens. It administers a micro-grants program that provides residents with soil, wheelbarrows, tools, and technical assistance. At Healthy House in Portland, Louisville Grows conducts donation-based programs that focus on healthy living, healthy eating, food justice, and environmental education.

Lisa says she enjoys interacting with the community, especially in underserved neighborhoods that don’t have some of the opportunities other neighborhoods might have. “Everyone should have access and be able to afford healthy food, which means fresh vegetables and fruits. My biggest hope for the community is for people to have a quality of life through cleaner air and water and a healthy food environment, no matter who you are or where you live.”

Top Five Things I Hope for Our Community

  1. For greater equality and justice regarding healthy food access and a healthy environment.

  2. For people to get involved. Everybody has something to offer in our community to show that they care; not just say they care but do something about it.

  3. For leaders to be empathetic. Beyond compassion, which is great, leaders can actually feel what other people are going through. They can listen and understand how to help them make a change.

  4. For people to not take water for granted. We need to understand it’s not a limitless resource, so we need to respect and value water. I would love to see us do like San Francisco and go plastic-free. Drink from silicone or stainless-steel straws.  

  5. For Louisvillians to appreciate what we have. Louisville has the amazing Olmsted parks. Learn to love nature.


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