AfricAid is delighted to honor Dee and Gene Milstein, founders of Applewood Seed Company, at this year’s Art & Soul. They will be recognized at our annual fundraising gala for their unwavering commitment to empowering Tanzanian girls to reach their full potential.
Applewood Seed Co. is a wholesale producer and distributor of wildflower, garden flower, native grass and herb seed. Since 1965, the company has been providing quality seed to many different markets and industries. Seed production takes place in many different climates and locations world-wide to ensure a continual supply of high quality seed year-round. This includes 200 farmers growing flower seed in Tanzania, such as zinnias, cosmos and marigolds.
Gene and Dee have been amazing friends and supporters of AfricAid since its very early days. They have demonstrated their commitment to our mission in so many ways – through sponsorships over the course of many years, constant encouragement of me and our team, multiple trips to Tanzania, and even attending the wedding of their scholar in Tanzania! I am grateful for and inspired by all they have done for AfricAid and for the impact they have helped make in the lives of the girls we support in Tanzania.
Ashley Shuyler Carter
We hope you will attend Art & Soul on September 23rd and meet this wonderful couple in person! Let’s spend a bit of time getting to know them first. The story of their company’s connection to Tanzania and to AfricAid is compelling.
How did you start Applewood Seed Co.?
While I was in school at UC Berkeley in the 1960’s, I visited several flower seed field trials in Central CA and was captivated by the concept of growing and selling flower seed. When I returned to Denver after college, I learned horticulture at Denver Botanic Gardens and started growing flower seed on my parents’ land in Lakewood.
How have you managed the business as a couple?
We have been married 46 years. By working together, we learned that no relationship is trouble free, but we have been satisfied both individually and as a couple and the business has thrived because we had a clear cut division of responsibilities.
When did you learn about AfricAid and when did you make your first gift?
We first learned about AfricAid in 2002 from a brochure that our neighbor Nina Shuyler put in mailboxes around our Genesee neighborhood. We made our first gift that same year after going to a meeting at Colorado Academy (Ashley Shuyler’s school). Ashley’s youth and enthusiasm inspired us to get involved in AfricAid. As the Kisa Project became established, we sponsored a Scholar named Perpetua. We loved receiving her letters where she shared her activities and challenges.
What motivated you to donate the first time? Why do you continue to donate?
We were so inspired by Ashley’s interest in helping people on the other side of the world. Dee and I had visited Africa on business in 2001 and observed the great need and desire for education. We continue to donate because we are increasingly impressed by AfricAid’s well developed programs and their results. Also, because over 200 farmers in Tanzania grow flower seed for our company, we want to give back to the people and country in a meaningful way.
What excites you about AfricAid and what the future holds for us?
We are excited about the possibility that through AfricAid, we can not only help young women get an education and become leaders, but to get meaningful jobs and contribute to their communities and their country. There is so much potential for breaking the cycle of poverty.
Why should other people care about the work that AfricAid is doing?
Quite simply, because we are one people it is imperative that we think of ourselves as world citizens and a family. We believe it is important to support education where we have the opportunity to do so in order to raise the standard of living around the world.
We know that more educated women will have fewer, healthier and better educated children. In addition, teaching leadership skills, as in the Kisa Project, results in confident, independent women who can speak out in their communities and act as role models. Many graduates of the Kisa Project go on to universities and become teachers, lawyers, nurses and business entrepreneurs. We are thrilled that the new Binti Shupavu program mentors younger girls to encourage them to stay in school.
How many times have you traveled to Tanzania and what was your experience like?
We have been to Tanzania twice and find it to be a fascinating and challenging country. Our experience with the Tanzanian people has been enlightening and rewarding. We highly recommend visiting some remote locations to get a true taste of village life.
The first time we visited was in 2008 to see AfricAid in action at the Usa River Community schools. We also visited many of the farmers who grow our seed and went on safari. The second time was in 2014 to attend the wedding of a woman we had sponsored from the Masai Girls School through University. We have wonderful memories of a sit down dinner for 500 following the church wedding of Witness John and Chris whose friends and family welcomed us as community members.
What are some of your lasting memories of Tanzania?
- Watching tribal herdsmen at a distance travel across the vast, dusty plains with their cattle in search of food.
- Visiting underground salt mines near Arusha where women carry big bags of salt on their backs to men waiting in pickup trucks.
- Visiting schools and seeing eager students.
- Camping out on safari.
Check out this fun video to get to know Dee & Gene a bit better!
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