Tree Service owner starts nonprofit to help people dealing with breast cancer in memory of his mom

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 4:42 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Paul Guzenski, owner of Paul’s Tree Service, makes a large part of his living by cutting down beetle-killed spruce trees. He figures he’s cut down thousands in recent years.

Last year, Guzenski decided to put some back. He started a program called Spruce Up Anchorage, where he gave away hundreds of young white spruce trees. At the time, he called it a “living memorial” to his mom Betsy Guzenski.

Betsy Guzenski died of breast cancer in 2019.
Betsy Guzenski died of breast cancer in 2019.(Courtesy Paul Guzenski)

“She was definitely a fighter and definitely put on a strong face and didn’t really let anybody know what was going on,” Guzenski said of his mother Betsy, who died from breast cancer in June of 2019.

Guzenski described his mother, who lived in New Jersey, as someone who was beloved in her community. He said she loved nature, her family and her students. She worked as a special education teacher for more than 30 years.

But Betsy Guzenski was also a caretaker who put others first. When his father had a stroke in 2017, Guzenski said his mother wasn’t thinking about her own health.

“She felt the lump right around that time but didn’t act on it, didn’t do anything about it. (She) just kind of took over the role of taking care of dad.”

When she finally got the lump checked out, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Guzenski said his mom passed away 26 days later.

Since then, Guzenski has heard from others who’ve experienced breast cancer in their family, as well as those who’ve asked how they can help. It’s why he recently turned Spruce Up Anchorage into a full-fledged nonprofit with a mission of helping those affected by breast cancer. The organization is raising money to remove some of the burdens people experience as they try to concentrate on their health.

“You don’t want to have to worry about going to work,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about who’s going to watch the kids. You don’t want to worry about cleaning the house or any of that kind of stuff. That’s what we are looking to do, is make that part of somebody’s life easier for as long as we can kind of thing.”

Guzenski is pledging a portion of his business’s profits to the charity as well as paying for all administrative costs.

The organization accepts donations as well as nominations for families or individuals struggling with breast cancer. And he’s also giving away trees with a random drawing sometime in the fall.

To register for a tree or learn more about the charity, go to the Spruce Up Anchorage website.

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