The benefits of a tree canopy

Volunteer planting, north of Philadelphia

A South Philly neighborhood has been leading the charge to plant new trees in the city.

Abdallah Tabet has been at the center of it in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, and what started as a three-person operation has grown into a neighborhood investment, involving numerous volunteers and backed by local businesses.

Since Tabet became a certified Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Tree Tender four years ago, Tabet has helped plant more than 200 trees in his neighborhood. 

“Now, when I’m walking to work, I know almost every single tree,” Tabet said. “I see how they’re growing, how people take care of them, and for me, this is very rewarding.”

Tabet will lead a group that plans to plant more than 60 more trees over a three day span from Nov. 18-20 during a semi-annual Pennsylvania Horticultural Society tree-planting event that could be the largest event that the organization has coordinated so far, with an estimated 2,000 trees expected to be placed in the soil.

The volunteer-led effort will involve more than 90 PHS Tree Tender groups as well as community organizations and neighborhood volunteers across the entire city. Through the initiative, PHS creates and enhances the tree canopy in neighborhoods across the region to promote healthier, greener communities.

For Tabet, it’s a great deal of pride and a big day in the community. On planting days, volunteers convene at a central meeting point and a local coffee shop provides free coffee and tea. The Chester A. Arthur School lends its playground space as a staging and storing area for the trees. And the work begins.

“Year after year, there’s more involvement,” he said. “And I think it’s great that a lot of neighborhood organizations are helping us.”

Volunteers are always needed and no prior experience is required. Interested volunteers can sign up to help plant trees or learn more ways to help by visiting

According to the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, studies have determined that areas with more tree cover are linked to lower rates of violence and better health outcomes, including reduction in heat-related illness. 

The U.S. Forest Service estimates that achieving 30-percent tree canopy would prevent 400 premature deaths per year in Philadelphia. However the city is averaging just 20-percent tree cover and some neighborhoods in the city have as little as 2.5 percent. Throughout the year, PHS plants and cares for trees and works toward the goal of a healthier urban forest, especially for neighborhoods with low canopy coverage and high average temperatures. 

PECO is a leading partner in PHS’s work to improve the tree canopy and has provided a $100,000 sponsorship for TreeTender and TreeVitalize grants, which resulted in about 8,700 new trees and 1,400 new shrubs being planted. Earlier this year, as part of PECO’s ReLeaf program, the company increased its annual support to $200,000, furthering PHS’s efforts to plant 15,000 trees in 2022. 

“PECO recognizes and appreciates the importance of trees in our communities, which is why we partner with community organizations like the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to support the distribution and planting of trees across the region,” said Romona Riscoe Benson, Director of Corporate & Community Impact, PECO. “As PECO works to play a leading role in the Greater Philadelphia region’s transition to a clean energy future, our ongoing partnership with PHS continues to be critical to our mission.”