Gerald “Jerry” Stoops has been a community volunteer in San Bernadino, CA with the Natural Beauty Program he founded for the past 39 years. During that time, he has almost single-handedly inspired more than 50,000 volunteers who have left a lasting imprint on the local community through service. There has been immeasurable success with a reforestation project involving two urban forests affected by area wild fires. Jerry's grassroots program has had to overcome many obstacles, both personal and professional, but he has always managed to put first his dedication to service and recruiting others to volunteer.
The reforestation project, which has the best survival rate of any similar project in the southwest, involves teens that have been labeled as "at-risk" or "troubled." The teens, from San Bernadino County Juvenile Hall, care for the young seedlings to keep them healthy. Other projects that have been completed throughout the years include development of a community park and greenbelt in a depressed area of San Bernadino, community planting projects and an innovative elementary school recycling project that collected seven million pounds of paper and raised more than $70,000.
Former teacher Jerry Stoops started his community restoration program in his eighth grade science class in 1959 and the program went community-wide in 1965. At 82, although he suffers with many physical ailments, Jerry still runs the program with the same fervor and commitment of his younger days. Community members admire his "never give up" attitude and are motivated to participate in his programs. He is well known for his ability to find volunteers to participate in mass recycling of tons of aluminum, paper, steel, glass and plastics, and planting thousands of trees. Jerry plans to continue his tree planting and restoration projects for as long as he is able, but the legacy of the Natural Beauty Program will last as long as the trees his volunteers have planted are growing and beautifying the countryside.