Jessie Mesa and Molly Williamson jumped in the car early Saturday to head to Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros.

“Yeah, I’m a big fan,” Mesa said, with a smile.

But this morning’s Lot B rush on Chartres Street downtown was not to watch the Houston Astros. Saturday’s big event: Earth Day 2022.

Mesa and Williamson were among dozens of people who loaded up their cars and took home native trees – oaks, pines, pecans and sycamores – given away for free.

The goal: to encourage people to plant trees and make the Earth and the community of Houston cleaner and greener, said organizers of the event, which included a partnership between Trees for Houston, the Astros Foundation and the Houston-based chemical company LyondellBasell.

Mother Nature, meanwhile, provided perfect weather for the event which kicked off at 6 a.m. when volunteers began unloading 2,500 3-gallon trees. And people were already lining up to receive them.

“I have a lot of plants — succulents, cacti and aloes,” said Williamson, who took pecans and pines for her Channelview home. “They are in my house, on my windows, outside, in my garden. My dad loved plants.

A Houston Astros special representative also made an appearance. Astros pitcher Framber Valdez, 28, was on hand to greet the public and help load trees into cars.

“Lots of mata!” Valdez said in his native Spanish, referring to the 3-gallon buckets all over Lot B.

“I love plants,” he says. “My grandfather loved plants in the Dominican Republic, where I come from. We were planting all kinds of things, onions, tomatoes, peppers. I even have a garden at home here in Houston where I grow watermelon.

The tree drive-by was the first of its kind, said Randi Koenig, director of development for Trees for Houston, whose mission is to plant, protect and promote trees in the greater Houston area.

Trees For Houston typically plants 50,000 trees a year, Koenig said. But during the pandemic, the organization has been limited in its efforts to hold events. So he started giving trees in smaller amounts. Even then, people from all over the area came by car to pick up trees.

“We would have people from at least 50 different postcodes coming to pick up trees, so we just wanted to give trees to the public and so today it’s a bigger version of our normal giveaways,” he said. she declared.

More than 2,500 three-gallon trees were distributed during Saturday’s drive-by. Species included American Beautyberry, American Sycamore, Buttonbush, Common Persimmon, Loblolly Pine, Pecan, Sweetgum and White Oak, organizers said.

Paula Harris, executive director of the Astros Foundation, said it makes sense for her organization to support Earth Day events.

“The Astros represent Houston,” Harris said. “And we want the most sustainable, greenest, friendliest Houston, so we partnered. It’s really important for the Astros to be good community partners, community leaders, enduring partners. All of this is linked. »

Daniel Mendez, an engineer from LyondellBasell, arrived early to distribute the plants.

“I love helping out in the community, helping everyone from all walks of life,” Mendez said. “It’s always good to give back.”

At 9:30 a.m., when the line of cars picking trees circled the block a few times, Allison Higbie of Houston waited patiently.

“I’m a tree lover,” she says. “And we need more trees. We are building a new house.

Jessica Tristan, who works at the Houston Zoo, heard about the drive-through on Friday when Trees for Houston volunteers came to the zoo to plant trees.

“They told us about it, and I’m so glad to have trees,” she said, her eye glued to a few pecans, a sycamore, white oak, persimmon and button. “I give it to my grandmother and then put it in my garden. I have a very large garden. »

Saturday’s giveaway was the first of two distributions, which is expected to provide a total of 5,000 trees in total. More than 180 mature 6-foot trees were planted at San Jacinto College last month, organizers said.