Making a Difference: Modern day Johnny Appleseed shares love of nature with young people

Feb 15, 2016

Throughout February WNED|WBFO is recognizing everyday citizens of Western New York who are doing amazing things in their communities. Our “Making a Difference” project emphasizes the importance of volunteerism and encourages others to lend a helping hand. Here is the story of a community champion who is making a difference.

Andrew Giarrizzo is a landscape architect in Niagara Falls
Credit WNED/WBFO Making a Difference

“We’re going to put this around the base of the tree after we finish to keep the water and the soil moist,” said Andrew Giarrizzo as he teaches some young people about planting trees.

Giarrizzo is a landscape architect in Niagara Falls, but some might call him a “modern day Johnny Appleseed” because of the way he shares his love of nature with others.

“You learn a lot in your career, in your life, in your profession about the thing you love to do and sharing it with young people gives it added value,” said Giarrizzo.

“In my work as a landscape architect, that’s what I do for a living. I’m attuned to it. So in my community, all it takes is a quick glance and go, oh, that area could use some help,” noted Giarrizzo. “It’s sunny. It’s barren…it’s devoid of, of any kind of life or inspiration that a tree could provide."

Andrew Giarrizzo teaches young people how to plant trees
Credit WNED/WBFO Making a Difference

On his day off, Giarrizzo can be found volunteering his time to teach others his green thumb skills. On the day we caught up with him, he was working with a group of children from the Boys and Girls Club of Niagara Falls.

“Trees are long Term,” said Giarrizzo. “They start out as an acorn, as a seed, and you grow it and it becomes something.”

Giarrizzo brought his shovels, wheel barrel and other materials to Hyde Park for a day of tree planting with more than a half dozen kids.

Andrew Giarrizzo explains to a young boy how to care for a newly planted tree
Credit WNED/WBFO Making a Difference

“So some people say the tree becomes your friend, and in a way it does,” said Giarrizzo. “I like to share with that tree a, a bit of, of my life and that tree shares a bit of its life with me… It represents anywhere from 20 to 50 to 100 to 200 years of time. How many living things can do that?”

His efforts are part of his volunteer work with the Niagara Falls Beautification Commission.

Andrew Giarrizzo shows off a row of evergreens he planted a while back
Credit WNED/WBFO Making a Difference

“These trees were about 18 to 24 inches tall when we planted them,” said Giarrizzo as he pointed out a row of evergreen trees. “And now they are about, oh, anywhere from 12 to about 20 feet tall. The folks on the one side love them, and when you enter the city, you’re greeted not with a lot of backyard material, but with a nice row of evergreens.”

Diane Quarantello of the Niagara Falls Boys and Girls Club said Giarrizzo has been phenomenal with the kids, noting he really goes the extra mile to pass along his respect for nature.

“We have a lot of inner-city children who come out to the tree, um, nursery, never planted a tree before in their lives or even know what to do,” said Quarantello. “I was helping little Joey and he wants to plant a tree next to his house, and Andy said he’ll get him a tree and they’ll be able to plant a tree right next to his home.”

Credit WNED/WBFO Making a Difference

Giarrizzo’s efforts are enhancing the landscape in Niagara Falls and his hope is to instill his love for all things green in some of the young people he works with.

“The work is never done. You need people to carry on your, your good efforts and, and your level of inspiration, and you hope some young person catches on to that,” said Giarrizzo. “And when they do, you have an ally. You have one more soldier in the cause.”

Listen to WBFO throughout February for more stories of people who are Making a Difference in Western New York.

Watch the Making a Difference TV documentary on WNED-TV Tuesday, February 16th @ 7:30pm and find out more online at a difference.