JACKSONVILLE — The associate pastor of the town's Presbyterian Church will leave Friday to work for a small group dedicated to reforestation and economic assistance in impoverished counties.

JACKSONVILLE — The associate pastor of the town's Presbyterian Church will leave Friday to work for a small group dedicated to reforestation and economic assistance in impoverished counties.

Doug Satre will relocate to San Diego to become the first development director of Floresta USA, a group that originated from a church mission in the 1980s and now works in four counties. Satre, 40, will head efforts to increase awareness of the group beyond its Southern California base.

"The organization is really growing, I think, as Christians in particular recognize issues of creation care and how that relates to poverty," said Satre.

Working with local groups in the countries, Floresta has aided in replanting forests and provided micro loans of as little as $75 to allow individuals to improve their economic status.

Floresta plants 33,000 fruit and hardwood trees a year in Haiti, which has lost 96 percent of its timber. Floresta also serves in Tanzania and Mexico. A nursery has been established in the Dominican Republic. A micro loan in Haiti helped one person start a tortilla stand with a hand cart and inventory, Satre related. In Haiti the loan repayment rate has been 98 percent, he noted.

"It really works," said Satre. "Communities are being transformed and lives are being changed."

Satre grew up to love creation with parents who had a cabin in the Sierras and who opened their family to seven adopted children from Third World nations as a way to help the poor.

"What's really unique about Floresta ... is that it seeks to minister at the intersection of the spiritual, the environmental and the economic," said Satre. "Any authentic reflection of Christian faith reflects these."

Floresta doesn't require a faith commitment from individuals and communities it works with, Satre noted. The group works on a smaller scale to cultivate a sense of buy-in from villages so they will feel an investment in what will be done. The organization always partners with a local team in each country.

"There's a desire to partner in a mutual way," said Satre. "It's a real Haitian ministry rather than a North American group that's come down and says 'Here's how you should do things.' "

Floresta has a staff of nine in San Diego. Each country has from four to 10 Floresta staffers who provide expertise, financial management, oversight and accountability.

An aptitude test Satre took as a high school freshmen suggested he should become a forester. He didn't pursue that option, but has always had an interest in nature.

Satre served on a city subcommittee that worked to enhance the former watershed area, now called Forest Park. He helped organize a cleanup and write grants to establish foot paths around the reservoir.

"It was a great opportunity to have hands-on experience with land-use issues," said Satre. "It does tie in with ... my faith applied to issues of creation."

As part of his new position, Satre will write grant applications to obtain additional funding from government groups and private foundations. Two or three times a year Satre will lead groups on work missions to the countries Floresta serves.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.