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Storm Devastation Draws Talent to Help Regrow & ReLeaf

August 31, 2023 | Live Here

Derecho. A word that triggers anxiety, fear and a slew of emotions in Cedar Rapids residents healing from this natural disaster. But when a storm passes, sunlight can be quick to follow. Sunlight can come in many forms, and in this case, it came as an opportunity that drew the attention and talent of one young woman who wanted to help the community regrow.

Dina Haveric, a Purdue University grad with a double major in environmental science and minor in environmental engineering, was on the lookout for a unique opportunity to utilize her skillset. She had visited Cedar Rapids several times but wasn’t convinced it was going to be “home”.

“After graduating, I knew I wanted to do something that was in my area of study that would make a difference. My passion was always trees, so the closer I could get to them, the better. I visited Cedar Rapids when my boyfriend was doing a competitive race, and Trees Forever had a booth setup. I took a business card, interested in learning more, and thought if I was ever in town again I could volunteer if there were opportunities. That business card sat in the center council of my car for quite some time,” shared Dina.

Dina Haveric

Post-graduation, it was time to make the big decision on where Dina was going to plant roots, figuratively and literally. She began applying for jobs across the country, and saw of all places, there was opportunity in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with Trees Forever. It came down to two opportunities in two very different locations: Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Denver, Colorado. Dina grew up in Illinois, went to school in Indiana, and always joked that when the time came she wanted to move West. “I did [move West], I went across the Mississippi, and now my running joke is Cedar Rapids is the Denver of the Midwest!”, jokes Dina.

“Ultimately, Cedar Rapids was where I felt I needed to be. I visited before the Derecho and after the Derecho, and seeing all the devastation following that disaster, it made me think that maybe my skillset would be most useful in Cedar Rapids. I felt like I was also going to learn a lot more and be a part of a bigger cause. If just felt right.”

Trees Forever

Dina began her journey at Trees Forever in the Green Iowa AmeriCorps as the communications and marketing support coordinator. After that term, she was offered a full-time position as the ReLeaf outreach and communications manager working on the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids plan – a plan created to guide the City, non-profit organizations, institutions and private landowners in replanting the urban canopy in Cedar Rapids following the August 2020 derecho. It was a dream gig for Dina, her opportunity to make a difference for a community that really needed it.

While the opportunity to be a part of something impactful was the draw, Dina shares that Cedar Rapids has so much more to offer. “Size wise it isn’t too large nor too small. Also, ‘Iowa nice’ really does ring true. In comparison to some of my friends and family that have moved to larger cities like New York and Miami, it’s been a lot easier for me to make connections and genuine friendships in a smaller city. Everyone is super welcoming and excited to be here. People are so willing to show you new things and connect you with people with shared interests or goals.”

Dina connects with nature on many levels of her job, but in her spare time she taps into outdoor recreation right in her back yard. “I love the outdoor community here. I live in the Czech Village, I’m only minutes away from the Cedar River trail. I’m there almost every day walking my dog, or on the weekends we will go biking. Lake MacBride isn’t far away with lots of hiking opportunities. We have great beer and good live music throughout the seasons. And the size appealed to me a lot, there’s not a lot of traffic, it is easy to get from one side to the other. We have Des Moines, Chicago, St. Louis, Madison, Minneapolis, we are the hidden hub. And cost of living is great, you get all the benefits at not as crazy of a cost.”

Dina continues her work in the community on the ReLeaf project with her team at Trees Forever. What we can learn more than anything from Dina, is that “our community offers a little something for everyone. Don’t be afraid to explore and have fun. See what clicks. It is a positive snowball effect. You will get connected and be happy in your environment.”