From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
KEMBA SHAKUR, 48

Oakland, Calif.

Kemba Shakur, a mom of five, founded Urban Releaf (www.urbanreleaf.org) in 1999. Since then, she's planted 7,000 trees and given another 8,000 to schools.

NATURE LOVER

Growing up in San Francisco's housing projects, Shakur cherished family camping trips, where she'd sleep under the stars at Yosemite National Park. "I loved the smell of the redwoods," she says. "It washed away the stresses of the city."

NEIGHBORHOOD BLIGHT

When Shakur moved to a crime-ridden section of Oakland in 1994, the former corrections officer was shocked to discover not a single tree on her street. "Block after block of concrete," she says. "The prison grounds looked better."

SEEDS OF HOPE

Mobilizing neighbors, family and friends, Shakur began planting elms and sycamores with money raised from grants and donations. She also incorporated a second passion-mentoring at-risk teens-and to date has taught some 15,000 the finer points of tree maintenance. The result: a renewed sense of pride for people like lifelong Oakland resident Renee Abdullah, 61: "Her trees have changed our streets. When the neighborhood looks good, people feel good."

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