Interview Series: Jake Milofsky, Tree Care and Restoration Coordinator at Tree Pittsburgh

Jake Milofsky, a native of Squirrel Hill, is the Tree Care and Restoration Coordinator at Tree Pittsburgh, a non-profit dedicated to growing and protecting the City’s urban forest.  Since 2011, he has worked with community, City, and industry partners to facilitate tree care activities with volunteers throughout Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  Jake also provides technical support for communities interested in restoring the health and sustainability of their local green spaces.

Jake Milofsky, Tree Care and Restoration Coordinator at Tree Pittsburgh, engages in some mulch management during a tree care project.
Jake Milofsky, Tree Care and Restoration Coordinator at Tree Pittsburgh, engages in some mulch management during a tree care project.

 

Years in the Pittsburgh area?  22 total (age 3-16, 21-27, 29-32)

What was your first job?  My first full-time job after college was with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, where I worked as a Field Ecologist for about three years before leaving for graduate school.

How were you drawn to nonprofit work?   As my career goals were coming into focus, I knew I wanted to work outdoors but I also wanted to do work with a social component like planning or community organizing.  By doing environmental fieldwork in the non-profit sector, I found the social component I was looking for by working with community volunteers to do the outdoor work I enjoy. 

What is the first thing you do each day?  After turning off my alarm every morning, I like to open up my Google News app.  Not only does the light help my eyes adjust, but I have plenty of good conversation fodder throughout the day.

What keeps you motivated?  The volunteers I work with keep me motivated most of all.  We work with close to a thousand volunteers each year, and it’s extremely rare for any of them to show up with a bad attitude.  Even if I’m tired or a little off at the beginning of an event, I’m always in a good mood and energized afterward. 

I’ve worked with some incredibly dedicated individuals who repeatedly humble me with the energy they bring to these voluntary activities they are passionate about.  I’m lucky to be a part of it, and recognizing that keeps me motivated to do a good job.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?  “Seek out mentors, and spend time with them”

What are you reading?  Right now I’m reading The Millionaire Next Door.  It’s about how the media portrays wealthy people as driving flashy cars and wearing fancy clothes, when in reality, many of the people who are actually wealthy in this country live very modest lifestyles, which is why they’re wealthy!  Also, many people who lead flashy lifestyles may have high incomes, but very little wealth.  I don’t have any illusions about becoming extremely wealthy, but the book is a good reminder to live at or below your means, and a welcome counterweight to the influence of our consumer society.

What is your go-to time-saving/productivity hack?  Put it on the calendar.  In my world, if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist and it probably won’t ever happen.

“I’ve worked with some incredibly dedicated individuals who repeatedly humble me with the energy they bring to these voluntary activities they are passionate about.”
“I’ve worked with some incredibly dedicated individuals who repeatedly humble me with the energy they bring to these voluntary activities they are passionate about.”

What major issue or trend is currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector?   The need for population diversity in trees is big in urban forestry right now.  Diseases, insects, and the prediction of continued warming temperatures mean we need to think ahead and create landscapes that are resilient.  If we do a good job, the urban forest should be able to survive these environmental challenges and continue to provide us with its many benefits.  To create these landscapes, however, will take education and continued advocacy on the part of those who share this understanding.

What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?  With close to 15,000 new trees planted on streets and in parks throughout Pittsburgh, it is very important to keep them pruned on a set cycle.  This ensures they fit into their surroundings and don’t get in the way of pedestrians or vehicles.  Our pruning goal for 2015 is 2,500 trees.  So far this year our staff and volunteers have pruned just over 2,100 trees, so I think we’ll get there.

What is the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh? The best thing about the non-profit sector in Pittsburgh is the feeling of community and willingness to partner between organizations.  One may think that competition for funding or other resources could cause conflict, but instead I see example after example of working together to make projects more effective.

What does Tree Pittsburgh have coming up?  Tree Pittsburgh will be hosting our fundraiser, Arbor Aid, on Saturday, September 26.  It will be at the site of our new Heritage Tree Nursery on the Allegheny River in Upper Lawrenceville. It’s a great location and sure to be a good time!