2014-2015 Rookie Crew Leaders Weigh-In

By Randi Orth

We’ve had an incredible 25th year of planting! Both our Green Space Initiative and Neighborhood Trees programs can claim massive feats this past winter with over 45,000 native trees and shrubs planted and over 3,500 street and yards trees planted, respectively.

With such high planting numbers it is truly a community effort and thanks to our tireless Crew Leader volunteers, it’s a fun and educational experience for all involved. At the start of every season we welcome and train new Crew Leaders to our ever growing Tree Team. Now, after six months of wind, rain, mud and more, I’ve asked some of our newest Crew Leaders about their first season out in the field with us. Here’s what they had to say:

1. What inspired you to join Friends of Trees as a Crew Leader this year?

“I am very interested in environmental restoration in general and I find that it simply isn’t enough to learn about these things by reading about methods in a classroom or reading success stories published by activist non-profits. To really learn about and appreciate these things, you just have to get out there and do them. Friends of Trees provided me with the awesome opportunity to come in and learn first hand. I will absolutely continue to grow and apply the things I have learned in the seasons to come, as an FoT volunteer, in my own time, and in the workplace.” – Charles Batey

“I love the wilderness of the PNW, and never really knew how to properly give back for all the great adventures its provided me with. When I learned about FOT from a teacher of mine, it was a no brainer! What better way to say “Thanks World” than to teach other people to care for it.” – Sara Potter

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Green Space Initiative Crew Leaders briefly pause for a photo op.

2. Aside from the assorted snacks (or maybe including all the delicious donated food at events!), what is your favorite part of leading volunteers at plantings?

“My favorite thing about leading Friends of Trees volunteers is not only being able to able to meet lots of different, interesting people, but also being able to plant the seed in every one of them of feeling more connected to the region and their own ability to make a difference.” – Matt Pizzuti

3. What was your favorite Crew Leader experience of the season? Have you had any special moments at plantings, met someone, learned anything new?

“Every weekend with FOT was amazing this season, but the one that really sticks out in my mind happened in the middle of March when an enthusiastic young man named Silas joined my crew for the day. When I told him that I was studying chemistry in college he told me all about what he wanted to do when he grew up, which included nanotechnology and possibly chemistry (by the way, he’s only nine years old!). We didn’t only share this common interest; he was absolutely stoked to plant trees too! It was an incredible experience to work with such a motivated individual. I made what I hope will be a long-time friend in Silas, and he’s coming to the lab I do research in soon.” – Noah Forest

“My favorite experience is a collective one-Just getting to chat with everyone who comes out to pitch in to their community.” – Sara

Neighborhood Trees Crew Leaders gather for a quick morning huddle before a tree planting.

4. What advice do you have for others thinking about becoming a Crew Leader?

“It’s not necessarily a fun moment when your alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning in January, it’s barely light out, it’s pouring rain outside, and you’re thinking, oh my god, am I really going to drive 15 miles to some muddy riverbank, speak in front of a group of strangers and and personally plant 25 trees in this weather? What did I sign up for?

But you do it anyway. You head out there and meet up with the group under the Friends of Trees tent, eat a smashed Voodoo Doughnut and drink some coffee, check out the trees, meet your volunteers, get to know some fun and interesting people and end up feeling so glad that you met the challenge. I definitely stuttered through it a little bit the first time I gave the “safety talk” but I don’t think anyone noticed. I also got a lot of regular exercise at the plantings. Not once did I or any of the people I dragged along to a tree planting ever have a bad time or head home feeling anything but proud and grateful for the opportunity. So whatever hesitance you have about signing up with Friends of Trees, just get yourself to an event and you’ll be glad you did.” – Matt

“Any advice I would give to people looking to be crew leaders in the future would be to really appreciate the people that they work with. Planting trees is really fun, but making new friends from new backgrounds and different walks of life is by far the best part of the FOT experience.” – Noah

“Do it! *coughdonutscough*” – Sara

“If you’re considering it, do it. There is no try.” – Charles