Trees Forever Staff

To reach a helpful staff member, dial 1-800-369-1269 plus the individual extension below



Gail Barels
Program and Board Administrative Coordinator
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Gail has a B.A. in Biology and German from Buena Vista University and a B.S. in Applied Ecology from Eastern Kentucky University and has worked for over three decades as a naturalist.  Now retired from that field, Gail is supporting the Visioning Program, the Board and CEO at Trees Forever.  Gail enjoys camping, traveling, kayaking and spending time with her dogs.


Kevin Bennett

Central and Southern Illinois Field Coordinator

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Kevin serves as a Field Coordinator for central and southern Illinois and manages the Illinois Community Forestry program. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Science from Quincy University and a M.A. in Natural Resource Policy & Administration from the University of Illinois. He has a diverse background in land management, legislative advocacy, and environmental education. Prior to joining Trees Forever, Kevin worked for the Soil & Water Conservation District in Bureau County where he helped landowners implement and manage various conservation practices aimed at creating habitat and improving water quality. Kevin has a passion for local foods, native landscapes, simple living, and big oak trees. He resides in Hopewell, IL with his wife and five children.

 Leslie Berckes
Director of Programs
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Leslie has a diverse background in environmental and conservation issues. She has worked on programs dedicated to reducing solid waste, improving energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable building practices. In her role at Trees Forever, Leslie serves as a Field Coordinator for the central Iowa region working with volunteers and organizations throughout the area. She also manages the Iowa’s Living Roadways Projects program and coordinates the Des Moines TreeKeepers program. Leslie earned an M.A. in Public Policy, with an emphasis on environmental policy, and a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Northern Iowa. When not busy at work, Leslie and her husband update and restore their 1935 Des Moines home and spend time their two cats, Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold.
Contact Leslie with any questions regarding funding for Iowa roadside plantings, to become a Des Moines TreeKeeper, or to learn more about how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in central Iowa.
 Margaret Birmingham
Finance and Operations Manager
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Margaret is the Finance and Operations Manager at Trees Forever.  One of her favorite aspects of the job is writing the grant checks that Trees Forever awards each year to communities and landowners across Iowa and Illinois - helping them plant more trees, beautify roadsides and public areas with native plants and shrubs, and protect and preserve our water and land resources.   Margaret is always looking for ways for us to save money and better manage our limited resources.  The Trees Forever staff is very fond of Margaret, as she also processes our payroll and expense checks!  Margaret lives in Cedar Rapids with her son.

Contact Margaret with accounts payable or accounts receivable questions.
 Nancy Duncan
Executive Vice President & CFO
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Nancy brings many years of experience in the non-profit community to Trees Forever.  She has a B.A. from St. Ambrose University in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. As Director of Finance and Operations, Nancy makes sure Trees Forever remains fiscally responsible and that employee policies are up-to-date.  Nancy loves the outdoors and enjoys visiting and camping in National Parks across the county.  She also enjoys singing (music in general), making crafts and cooking.  Nancy lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband.
Contact Nancy if you would like to learn more about Trees Forever’s financial health or policies.
 Tracy Feldmann
Database Coordinator
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Tracy has an A.A. degree in Office Administration from Kirkwood Community College.  After spending five years with Trees Forever working with the Iowa's Living Roadways programs, she now focuses on maintaining the Trees Forever website and database system.  Tracy enjoys sewing, crochet, and re-purposing old items into new ones.  She lives near a walnut forest preserve with her family and strives to raise her children to be responsible environmental stewards.

Contact Tracy with any questions about the Trees Forever database.
 Debbie Fluegel
Field Coordinator, Illinois
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Debbie has a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Maine. She manages Trees Forever’s Illinois Buffer Partnership and it Pollinator Habitat Conservation programs for both Iowa and Illinois. Debbie’s favorite part of her job? “Meeting new people and visiting a lot of unique areas in Illinois that most people don’t have the opportunity to visit.”  Debbie is a member of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois, the Illinois Forestry Association, the Soil & Water Conservation Society and the Association for Temperate Agroforestry.
Contact Debbie with questions regarding Trees Forever’s Illinois water quality or pollinator habitat conservation projects or to learn how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in Illinois.
 Jeff Jensen
Field Coordinator, Northwest Iowa
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Jeff is Program Manager for Trees Forever’s Working Watersheds: Buffers and Beyond program in Iowa, and is a Field Coordinator for Northwest Iowa. He has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and has worked in the field of sustainable agriculture for several years.  Jeff is also a little nutty, being active with the Iowa Nut Growers Association, Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation, and Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative (UMHDI).  He grows and markets hazelnuts from the family farm in Northern Kossuth County. 
Contact Jeff with questions regarding Trees Forever’s Iowa water quality or agroforestry projects or to learn how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in northwest Iowa.
 Patty Reisinger
Field Coordinator and Membership Steward
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Patty has been with Trees Forever since 1991, coordinating tree planting events and helping train volunteers with tree selection, all aspects of planting and care, reviewing site plans and facilitating local efforts. Passionate about helping communities achieve their goals, Patty is always excited to travel throughout Iowa  & Illinois to visit members and  see the results of the great projects they have achieved.  Patty has a B.S. in Horticulture from Iowa State University and is also an ISA Certified Arborist.
Contact Patty to learn how you can become a Trees Forever member or to learn more about how you can get involved with Trees Forever where you live.
 Shannon Ramsay
Founding President and CEO
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Shannon founded Trees Forever as a volunteer in 1989, and continues to lead Trees Forever with passion and dedication.  Recognized both nationally and locally for her leadership and accomplishments, Shannon was the 2011 recipient of the Frederick Law Olmsted Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation and a Women of Influence Award from the Corridor Business Journal.  She serves on numerous boards and task forces, including the national Forestry Research Advisory Council, and is a member of the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary.
Contact Shannon to learn how you or your business can support Trees Forever’s efforts Planting a Better Tomorrow.
 Brad Riphagen
Field Coordinator, Southwest and Western Iowa
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Brad has a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Land Resources with a focus on prairie restoration and soils.  He has been a Trees Forever Field Coordinator since 1995 and has worked in almost all of the program areas.  He also has a strong interest in reduction of stormwater run-off, especially in urban areas, through the use of infiltration practices such as rain gardens and bio-retention basins.   Brad is energized by the interaction with volunteers around the state and especially in southwest and western Iowa. 
Contact Brad to learn how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in western and southwestern Iowa.
 Deb Roman
Program Support Coordinator
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Deb is best known as the voice of Trees Forever, as she is most often the person answering telephone at our main office in Marion.  Deb supports all the necessary administrative processes for hundreds of grant applications, awards and reports. Deb grew up on a Linn County, Iowa, farm, and has an A.A. degree in Ag Science from Kirkwood Community College.  Deb has a special place in her heart for her dogs and the outdoors and she thrives on hard work and helping others.
Contact Deb with questions about Trees Forever grant programs or project reporting forms.
 Becky Smith
Development Coordinator
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Becky updates and maintains Trees Forever's member and partner database.  She also coordinates most of the many mailings throughout the year.  In addition, Becky manages registrations for all the educational events and meetings throughout the year.  Becky has an A.A. degree in Computer Applications from Marshalltown Community College.  She enjoys sharing her love of nature with her husband and daughter.
Contact Becky to register for a Trees Forever event or to add or correct your contact information.
 Kerri Sorrell
Des Moines Porgram Coordinator, Central Iowa
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Kerri developed her affection for the outdoors growing up in Iowa City, wandering the trails of her elementary school's ravine, helping her parents in the vegetable garden and spending many a night inside a tent at Lake MacBride State Park. She carried this affection through journalism and graphic design degrees at Drake University, later entering the nonprofit conservation field, and eventually to Trees Forever, where she now manages the Growing Futures and TreeKeepers programs in Iowa's largest metro. When not organizing logistics or working to increase access to nature for all Iowans, you can usually find Kerri fixing bikes at the Des Monies Bicycle Collective or listening to a podcast on her porch swing.
Contact Kerri to become a central Iowa TreeKeeper or to get involved in Growing Futures.
 Emily Swihart
Field Coordinator/Design Specialist, East-Central Iowa
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Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and a master’s degree in landscape architecture and she uses both to help communities plan, organize, obtain funding and implement landscape improvement projects.  Emily manages and provides design services for Trees Forever’s Iowa’s Living Roadways Trails Visioning program.  As an avid outdoorswoman, Emily enjoys exploring trails, biking, and gardening. She is also a passionate lifelong learner who loves to read and travel.
Contact Emily to learn how your trail group can apply to participate in the Iowa’s Living Roadways Trails Visioning program or to talk to her about how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in east-central Iowa.

Hannah Wadke

AmeriCorps Member and Program Assistant

Hannah Wadke is the Trees Forever AmeriCorps Member and Program Assistant. She primarily works with our Growing Futures program but also helps with planting events and education. She has a degree in Biology and a minor in Geospatial Technology from Grand Valley State University. She is originally from Michigan and loves to be outdoors camping, gardening, or reading.  


Jackie Wedeking

Communications and Marketing Manager

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Jackie works with Trees Forever staff members to promote events and write articles for the Trees Forever website, TreeNews and the Leaflet. She graduated from Wartburg College with a B.A. in Political Science and Communication Arts. With roots in journalism and photography, one of her favorite ways of enjoying nature is with a camera in hand. However, she will set down her camera long enough to go kayaking or to picnic with her family.


Contact Jackie with questions or story ideas for the Leaflet, TreeNews or our website.


Lisa Williams
Director of Development
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Hailing from the longleaf pines of north Louisiana, Lisa has a diverse background in fundraising, nonprofit administration and environmental protection. She earned an M.S. from The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources and a B.S. in business administration from Northwestern State University. Lisa loves local foods, spring migration and fig trees. She and her husband live in Cedar Rapids.



Independent Consultants who Support Trees Forever


Barb Grabner-Kerns


Barb Grabner-Kerns designs publications for Trees Forever as a private contractor. She was a field coordinator with Trees Forever for 12 years before retiring in 2018. She also continues with tree projects as a volunteer in Taylorville, Illinois.


Alida Selim


Deeply passionate about conservation and volunteerism, Alida Selim is ecstatic that she is able to bring together her personal and professional interests as a part of the Trees Forever team. A graduate from Cornell College, Alida focused on Religious Studies and did volunteer work that would lead her to becoming involved in organizations like AmeriCorps NCCC, the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, and Iowa Master Naturalists. When she’s not volunteering or advocating for the environment, she likes to go camping with her family.

  Bev Stevenson

Bev keeps Trees Forever's computers and system running smoothly by providing outstanding and timely IT support.  She is a long-time and valued member of the Trees Forever family.