Question: What do a couple of high school buddies, a bunch of trees, an after-school club for kids and an up-and-coming opera singer have in common?
Answer: "Poison Ivy."If you're more puzzled by the answer than the question, don't worry. It will all become perfectly clear.
"Poison Ivy' is an afternoon or evening - your choice - of dining and music on Sunday, organized by Trees Asheboro, a nonprofit urban tree advocacy group.
Food will be served by Trees Asheboro member Tim Womick, a former restaurateur.
The entertainment will be performed by opera soprano Lucy Tucker Yates, an Asheboro native, and pianist Sophia Pavlenko.
Proceeds will benefit the Central Boys & Girls Club of Asheboro, whose members have been helping Trees Asheboro with some of its projects. The club gives kids a safe place to go after school to play and get help with their homework.
"This is going to be an event that people won't forget," said Alvis Owen George III, who cofounded Trees Asheboro with Womick and Chad Phillips. George and Womick were classmates at Asheboro High School. Phillips is a professional arborist.
"This is a grass-roots project," George said. "All the work we do with our own time and our own resources. We really believe in the work that the Boys & Girls Club is doing, and we want to be supportive."
George said the evening edition of "Poison Ivy" will have a surprise for diners, featuring some fresh young talent coached by Yates. The name "Poison Ivy" is a clue about what the razzle-dazzle surprise involves, George said.
"It's an answer to Vegas," Yates said.
Yates is a professional opera singer whose credits include the part of Violetta in "La Traviata," one of the most coveted soprano roles in the opera world.
Yates got involved with Trees Asheboro and the Boys & Girls Club after friends George and Womick told her about their project. She offered to help, and they asked her to sing at the fund-raiser. Although the three have traveled far and wide - George was a consultant for Chinese businessmen before his homecoming - their worlds continue to revolve around Asheboro, where they grew up.
"We still care about Asheboro and the future of Asheboro," George said.
The cause that draws them together is Trees Asheboro, which is modeled after similar organizations in New York and Atlanta, George said.
Founded in October 2003, Trees Asheboro grew out of Womick's work promoting trees.
Some have compared Womick to Johnny Appleseed. His resume includes a 10-year stint as the spokesman for the National Tree Trust. He also runs his own nonprofit, Tree Family, an advisory organization.
He is a spokesman for the Tree Fund, a group researching ways to improve the health of urban trees. It is a branch of the International Society of Arboriculture, the largest professional tree association in the world.
"We want people to understand the form and function of the trees where they live," Womick said. "Trees take planning. It doesn't happen by itself."
At ground level, Womick plants trees and talks to children and adults about their importance to the environment. And that's what Trees Asheboro has been doing in the busy seven months since it was founded. The group's signature has been planting trees in Asheboro taken from historic places across the United States.
Working with the American Forests' Famous and Historic Trees Program, Trees Asheboro has planted a sycamore sapling grown from a seed taken from a tree at Browns AME Church in Selma, Ala., where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently spoke.
Trees Asheboro has also planted trees at Memorial Park and North Asheboro Park, where it is cultivating the Mayors' Grove to honor the city's mayors.
Former First National Bank president Jim Culberson of Asheboro helped Trees Asheboro get a sponsorship from the bank for services such as a logo design. Culberson also told George, Womick and Phillips about Central Boys & Girls Club. Since then, the relationship between the two organizations has flourished.
"It just seemed like a real good fit," George said. "We just like each other, too."
Womick said that on June 8, Trees Asheboro will help plant a garden behind the Boys & Girls Club on Franks Street.
Womick said he sees Trees Asheboro's work with the Boys & Girls Club as an extension of the advocacy group's mission to make the city a better and more beautiful place. He said many of the kids are "at risk," meaning they come from low-income, single-parent homes and have a greater likelihood of dropping out of school.
As with young trees, a little "maintenance" early on can direct children's growth, Womick said. "It's an investment, I think, in the future of Asheboro," he said.
\ Contact Mark Brumley at 625-8452, Ext. 231, or firstname.lastname@example.org