SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson

2020 Most Influential Women: Linda Brown

The Gathering Tree

Posted online

Linda Brown’s proudest accomplishments to date came after her retirement from the workforce as she became an advocate for the homeless community.

A former 25-year registered nurse, Brown in 2010 co-founded The Giving Tree nonprofit with her husband, David.

The creation of the organization that provides services for the homeless came after the Browns moved to a loft in downtown Springfield. There, they became aware of the size of the homeless population and decided to do something about it. The Gathering Tree started as an evening drop-in center that allowed the homeless population to get off of the streets for a few hours of respite.

“It was during these years of associating with my homeless friends that I developed an in-depth understanding of homelessness and its many causes,” Linda Brown says. “I realized that what we were providing was not a solution to homelessness, although it provided for a need.”

So, she sought a solution. Her research led to the concept of tiny-home communities, and The Gathering Tree was a perfect fit.

The Eden Village development for the chronically homeless was completed by The Gathering Tree in 2019.

“I have personally witnessed many individuals, who were down and out with no hope, regain self-worth and a new life of meaning,” Brown says. “No longer are they the forgotten, invisible members of society but they have a home of their own and a community of friends that love them and care about them.”

The Gathering Tree and Eden Village have since followed up with a second tiny-homes development that’s underway in Springfield, and the organizations work with nonprofits across the country in development of their own concepts to house the homeless.

“The model we have perfected to create Eden Village can be duplicated in almost any town in America,” Brown says. “We have the template and expertise to help them accomplish their goals.”

The Eden Village model, she says, also provides an economic impact to the community.

“The average chronically disabled, homeless individual will cost a community between $30,000 and $40,000 a year per person in costs associated with ambulance service, emergency room and hospital services, the judicial system costs of arrests and incarceration to name a few,” Brown says. “Providing a community like Eden Village reduces those costs by 60%-80%.”

Brown envisions a Springfield where “no one sleeps outside.”

“The aesthetics and economic benefit will undoubtedly make Springfield a better place to live and work,” she says. “Can you imagine?”

Prior to her volunteer work with The Gathering Tree and Eden Village, Brown worked as a nurse for CoxHealth Orthopedic Associates Inc. She went on to operate The French Door and Traders Market retail gift and accessories stores in Springfield 1991-2000, and she’s been a real estate agent from 2007 to the present, now with AMax Real Estate. Her volunteer work started in 2000, with the first beneficiaries being the Red Cross and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I personify volunteerism by my actions,” Brown says.