Why We Lead: A Crew Leader’s Vested Interest — Part I

Jeff Kisseloff sports his orange vest (Susie Peterson)

By Jeff Kisseloff, FOT Crew Leader

People can say being a crew leader is all about planting trees and doing something good for the city and the environment, but the truth is it’s really about one thing: the orange vest.

The day you get to put on the orange vest your life changes. Suddenly people look up to you. They expect you to know stuff. They let you tell them what to do. They respect your opinion and even let you ride in the front seat next to the driver. Then there’s the sheer coolness factor of having all those pockets. And don’t forget the clippers. Being a CL entitles you to a pair of clippers. Hold one of those babies in your hand, and you’re a person transformed.

Ok, I’m lying. It has nothing to do with the vest, although the vest is way cool.

If you want to know what it’s all about (and no, the hokey pokey is not what it’s all about), let me tell you how I got involved with Friends of Trees, because my story is probably pretty typical. It began one day last fall when someone rang our bell and asked us if we were interested in having a tree or trees planted on our property by Friends of Trees. We had been in Portland only a little over a year then, having moved across the country from rural upstate New York. We missed the trees on our 40 acres, so the answer wasn’t just yes, it was “Hell, yes!”

March 10, 2012 Alameda, Irvington, Sabin & Grant Park Planting
Crew planting trees (Whitney Hartzell)

It turned out that we could also plant that tree and others around the neighborhood. That sounded like great fun, so a few Saturdays later, a neighbor and I walked a few blocks over to the Moreland Church where there was an enormous spread of bagels and donuts and other goodies and what seemed like half the neighborhood consuming them. Little did we know that we had joined an army of tree planters.

After a few speeches, we were divided into groups. That’s when we met Nick, our guy with the vest. He showed us how to plant trees the Friends of Trees way (not the way I had done it my whole life), the reasons for doing it that way (the FOT way they live, my way they die) and then let us do it. The day was cold and rainy and soon we were covered in mud; my back ached from the lifting, shoveling and stake pounding.

But I was having a blast. After we planted our twelfth tree, we walked back to the church for a terrific hot meal, but I just wanted to go back out there again. As it turned out, FOT had a crew leader training session coming up, so not only could I plant more trees, I could help others enjoy it as much as I did — and wear a cool vest while doing it. What could be better?

Stay tuned for Part II to be released tomorrow…