Meet Heartland Tree Alliance Associates Matt and Joe

matt-and-joe-hta2Work is in full swing for Heartland Tree Alliance (HTA), a program of Bridging The Gap (BTG), thanks to a partnership with Kansas City Parks and Recreation. For the last couple of months HTA has been scouting locations and planting trees in Kansas City neighborhoods, with the help of the people who live there. To some residents of Ivanhoe, Blue Hills, and Scarritt neighborhoods, the new faces of HTA are now old friends, but for those who have not had the pleasure of meeting them, we welcome Matthew Vander Molen and Joseph Davis to the HTA team!

Matt and Joe are often out working in the field, educating and working in the community. With such a busy schedule, it was difficult to find time to sit down with these two to introduce them to the BTG family. Through the magic of the Internet, we made it happen.

What is your favorite thing about working at BTG?


Core values, expertise, vision, and current projects of BTG inspire me every day.  The environmental and community development focus also makes for big points in my book.

How does your work at BTG improve the community, the city, and/or the world?


Kansas City has one of the smallest urban tree canopies in the country and the Heartland Tree Alliance actively works to improve it. Trees help reduce the urban heat island effect and make neighborhoods more aesthetically pleasing, so I get instant gratification from the work I do!


The natural world is suffering huge losses in biodiversity and habitat dangerously fast.  What was (and still is) the invincible, essential, sustaining, dominating wilderness of our human ancestors is now dominated, wilderness is a merely a concept, and the natural world is understood as a means to an end of resource-driven human communities.  We’ve got to put nature and her biodiversity back in our cities, farms, and living spaces, or else we run the risk of permanently losing a complex and necessary web of life.  Planting trees is an excellent way to start!  A healthy tree in a healthy urban forest can yield rich benefits.

Why did you want to work for BTG?


Bridging The Gap is very well known around Kansas City and while working at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment I saw first-hand how the state of our environment
affects the health of our population.

What keeps you motivated? 


Inspiring stories from the developing world, like this National Geographic story of a man who plants a forest to save an island in India.  Also, the simple give and take between people and both wild places and well nurtured forests, gardens.


Knowing that the work I do is important and is scientifically proven to improve the environment and community keeps me motivated to do the best job I can do every day.

Matt and Joe have something else in common besides working for Heartland Tree Alliance, the Peace Corps. Matt already served in the Peace Corps before joining us and Joe will be leaving BTG in January to begin his tour. Joe will serve in Tanzania to engage in HIV and Malaria education initiatives.

If your neighborhood has 20 or more spaces along the street where we could plant trees, email us at and Matt or Joe will contact you. We always need help with tree plantings and other great volunteer opportunities. Check out our upcoming volunteer events!