Growth Rings

Rookie crew leaders share their secrets

Posted on April 22, 2010 at 3:56 pm
NT Planting: 12.05.09, Buckman, Hosford-Abernethy & Richmond

The 'crew leader huddle' before a planting in Southeast Portland last December. (Evan G. Schneider)

By Andy Meeks

This past planting season, there were 217 active crew leaders who committed to attending at least four plantings between November and March—an absolutely vital contribution to Friends of Trees’ record-breaking season.

Crew leaders help volunteers plant trees, teaching others how to plant correctly, how to work together as a team and how to have fun.

Below, four first-year crew leaders answer five quick questions, providing perspective on completing their ‘rookie’ year, insights and some secret tips, too.

1)  What prompted you to get involved with Friends of Trees as a Crew Leader?

Working with a variety of volunteers doing something with shorter and longer run benefits. – Jonathan King (JK)

“Getting involved with Friends of Trees was on my list for years, I just had to wait until I had room in my schedule. This was an excellent way to work on important skills such as leadership, community building, and communication while continuing to prioritize environmental stewardship.” – Heather Reed (HR)

“Honestly, I was unemployed, I had a lot of energy, and I was doing practically anything that presented itself.” – Nick Powell (NP)

“Saw a sign in a yard, which led me to the Web site, which led me to the belief that I didn’t need to sleep in on Saturdays.” – Caela Levy (CL)

2)  What’s your favorite aspect of being a Crew Leader?

“I really like the sense of community—not only with the other crew leaders, but with the other volunteers. Here we all are, as different as can be, pulling together to make a lasting impression on the future in concert with Mamma Nature.  That’s awesome!” – CL

“Helping people have fun.” – JK

“My favorite aspect of crew leading is the creativity involved. There is a unique style to the way each crew leader delivers their tree planting instructions. It was fun and educational to observe the various personalities and responses from participants. Learning from seasoned crew leaders helped me understand the best ways to get people involved, make sure safety is first priority, and to achieve goals while having way too much fun!” – HR

I like going to the city’s outskirts and seeing these diverse groups of people happily and humbly working together for a common goal. – NP

3)  Do you have a favorite planting from this past season or favorite experience?

“Through crew leading I found someone who’s become one of my closest friends, and I couldn’t ask for much more than that.” – NP

“My favorite experience was hearing so many interesting stories and watching people come together because of trees. I can’t believe how many neighbors didn’t know each other until the trees came along!” – HR

“Tranquility Park, Wilsonville.  Eighty-plus volunteers, flat, and little to no undergrowth thanks to our best friends the goats.  Done in about two hours. Sweet!” – CL

“No, all of them were fun and interesting. I especially enjoy working in different neighborhoods each weekend.” – JK

4)  Looking back on your first year as a Crew Leader, do you have any thoughts for others thinking about becoming a Crew Leader?

“Get it on your calendar and bring your friends and family! There are several other fun and rewarding volunteer opportunities to check out as well.” – HR

“It’s hard, it’s fun, it’s rewarding and makes you an integral part of a community that will stretch for hundreds of years.” – CL

If you can’t find a smile through a little bit of rain, I’m not sure what you’re doing in the Pacific Northwest. – NP

“Only that Crew Leaders are there to help, not supervise.” – JK

5)  Anything else you’d like to add?

“I’ve been living in Portland for about a year now, and much of that time has been spent bumming around, writing, volunteering for anyone who’ll have me, etcetera.  Friends of Trees has been one of the things keeping me grounded.  It’s a wonderful organization of great people, and it’s one of the reasons I never want to leave this city.” – NP

“What makes volunteer activities so enjoyable are the kinds of people who do volunteer work.” – JK

“Crew Leaders are amazing at making sure everyone learns a consistent procedure and has a good time, while offering guidance and professionalism to help assistants learn the ‘crew leading ropes.’” – HR

We’ll let Caela Levy have the final word:  “Best reason in the world to wear rubber pants and play in the mud!”


Friends of Trees utilizes a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach where each new crew leader attends a 3-hour classroom training session followed by an actual planting event where they can put their newly-learned skills to work.  The ‘train-the-trainer’ approach means that these crew leaders are then empowered to train members of the general public who come out to volunteer as tree planters on the day of a Neighborhood Trees or Green Space Initiative planting.

If you’re interested in becoming a crew leader next season, please fill out our Volunteer Interest Form and mention you’d like to attend a training this fall.  We’ll be in touch in late summer to provide you with more detailed information.  We look forward to working with you!

Meeks is the Volunteer and Outreach Specialist at Friends of Trees: 503-282-8846 ext. 24,

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2 Responses to “Rookie crew leaders share their secrets”

  1. I’m interested in attending a crew leader training if space is still available. Thank you.

  2. Shayne – looks like you are all set. But if anyone else wants to sign up, go to

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