From its very beginning, Ben Moore’s career in sustainability has been intricately tied to Tree Hill Nature Center in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2003, Ben decided he wanted to move into the sustainability industry. Needing to gain experience, he decided to volunteer at Tree Hill, a 50-plus-acre preserve that provides low-cost access to nature as well as hands-on environmental education for children.
His volunteering efforts led to an eventual part-time job teaching forest ecology. After about a year working at the center, Ben went to graduate school, where his connections to Tree Hill proved handy.
“It’s funny how life works,” Ben said. “Working at Tree Hill led me to an internship with the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) in graduate school. And my graduate project on an energy efficiency program at JEA helped me get my job at RS&H.”
Ben, currently RS&H’s sustainability group leader for Aerospace & Defense, furthered his ties to Tree Hill after receiving his master’s degree, serving on its Board of Directors for a number of years.
In 2017, work brought Ben to Fort Lauderdale, hundreds of miles away from the center. But his ties to the organization persist, through a grant given by the RS&H Elevate Fund.
“I was sad to leave when I moved away from Jacksonville,” said Ben. “But it’s been nice to be able to give back from afar to an organization that opened so many doors for me.”
Elevate Fund brings kids to nature
The RS&H Elevate Fund, created in 2018, provides grants to non-profits where RS&H associates are actively involved. In this first pay-out, the Elevate Fund committee distributed $50,000 across 11 charities. The money came from associate donations and a portion of company profits.
The grant to Tree Hill Nature Center will allow about 500 Title I kindergartners to visit the center.
“Private school kindergartners can visit Tree Hill because they have the funds,” said Ben. “But public school kids wouldn’t be able to go without this grant. The difference this grant will make is clear.”
While at the center, the kindergartners will see, touch, smell and hear the ecological processes they’re learning about in the classroom, a first for many of the children.
“A lot of these children, especially ones from very urban areas, will have never been in the woods before,” said Ben, drawing from his experience teaching at the center. “The transformation that occurs in them is amazing to see.”
Many, he said, are at first worried they might see snakes or other animals when they go out in the woods.
“After the guide tells them that they will see animals and that they just need to be respectful of their homes -- like they would be at a friend’s house -- they aren’t as worried,” said Ben. “By the end, they’re disappointed if they haven’t seen a snake!”
Center inspires next generation
The nature center is located about 10 minutes from Jacksonville’s downtown. Surrounded by suburban development, it is a natural oasis that would not exist without both residents’ push for preservation and the non-profit that keeps that spirit of preservation alive.
Ben hopes the school kids’ visit to the center will help inspire the next generation to further the preservation and protection of natural environments.
“These kids may be future mayors, business people or consultants,” said Ben. “And hopefully, early access to environmental education will keep conservation and sustainability on their minds as they move forward in the world.”
The good news doesn’t stop with the just over $4,000 Elevate Fund grant. After RS&H announced the gift, a private donor stepped in to donate an additional $15,000 to Tree Hill, multiplying the number of children able to visit the nature preserve.