Volunteer Spotlight: Joel Finkelstein

Volunteer Joel Finkelstein truly embodies what FoT is all about. “I can’t say I’m the best at identifying trees,” Joel admits, “but to me, FoT is all about the people and the community bonds that are made.” Joel has been a Neighborhood Trees Crew Leader for over 10 years, the Brooklyn Neighborhood Coordinator for 3 years, and a Pruning Leader with the Community Tree Care program. He’s also been known to stop by the office out of the blue to say hi. “If I show up early enough, there’s usually coffee on–and some darn good roasted beans, at that”

What is your earliest tree memory?
There was an oak tree in my back yard that meant a lot to me. I built my first swing and a pretty crooked fort, and over 10 feet up—pretty high up there, for a 12 year old. I actually fell out of that tree one time, and remember thinking “I just fell flat on my back, from way up in that tree, ouch!” That tree and I spent many years together, I basically grew up with that oak tree.
When you’re joel (2)not doing “tree stuff” what do you enjoy doing?
Community. I enjoy anything involving community. I look for ways to come together with people. This is one of the main reasons I love being a Neighborhood Coordinator. It’s one of my favorite reasons why I love biking. How much more “community” can you get than when you pull up to an intersection on your bike and turn to the person next to you just to say “how’s it going, nice day for a bike ride, huh?” (Joel was also recently named the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Volunteer of the Year)

What do you like most about your neighborhood?
I’ve lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood for nearly three years, and appreciate just how dedicated and active our neighborhood is. The Brooklyn Action Corps is an example of a group who has a great impact on the neighborhoodFOT_25th anniversary-469od.

What is your favorite tree in your yard?
We’ve got 4 Japanese Snowbell street trees that we planted not too long ago. I make sure to water them 10-15 gallons a week; I’m diligent with my tree care. They’ve got the proudest berms on the block, and those berms also do a terrific job at directing water straight to the root zone! (Joel’s trademark is his berms / mulch rings around the trees he plants. He’s been known to bring extra sod to plantings to make sure his berms are wide and tall enough. He’s been nicknamed the “Berm Master.”)

Why do you like volunteering with Friends of Trees?
The people. It could be a planting, a volunteer appreciation event, or just swinging by the office; it all begins with showing up, everything falls into place from there. Some of my most favorite Saturday mornings have started with showing up for a tree planting. There is something inherently good about planting a tree in the ground and knowing it’ll foster so much life around it. It always makes me feel like I’ve done something good.