Friends of Trees is taking our region’s “Stay at Home” orders very seriously and as a result we have decided to stop all tree planting efforts for the time being. This means that in addition to canceling all events through April (stay tuned for updates about May tree care events), if you ordered a street or yard tree we will not be out to plant your tree(s) in the foreseeable future and, unfortunately, we cannot tell you when we will be out to plant your tree(s). We are closely following all updates related to this pandemic and are taking all the safe and necessary precautions. We will update you as soon as we have more information to share. Please email us with any questions about the tree you ordered.
We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, and ask for your understanding. Tree planting in the near-term is important to this world. It is not more important than our immediate and collective human health.
March 13, 2020
Dear Friends of Trees family,
Because we love you and we want to do our part to diminish the risk of COVID-19 in our community, we are making adjustments to the remainder of our planting season events. Tree planting in the near-term is important to this world; it is not more important than our immediate human health. Currently, all Friends of Trees events in the month of March are canceled. We will let you know about April and beyond when we know.
As we take into account the recommendations of health professionals, we’re asking for your understanding as we reserve the right to continue to change and cancel our events. Please check our online events calendar for the latest information about the status of Friends of Trees events.
The Friends of Trees office is closed to the public through the rest of the month. Staff will work on-site, in the field, or remotely as much as possible, but in the interest of everyone’s health we ask that you not visit our office this month. We’ll keep you posted about April and beyond. If you need to reach us email will be the most effective (it’s not always possible to check our voicemail remotely), you can find a staff directory here; please be patient as it may take a little extra time to get back to you.
Meanwhile, we’re still planting trees. Using a variety of methods and with a variety of partners, as long as it’s OK to do so we will be out there planting trees. It will be hard, and it won’t be nearly as fun as when you’re with us, but, well, it’s what we do and we’ll keep doing it as long as we can.
If you are registered to have a street or yard tree planted at your property, rest assured, your tree/s will be planted. It may not be on the date we planned, nor will it be planted with a team of your neighbors (at least in March), but your tree will be planted. Unfortunately we cannot tell you exactly when your tree will be planted, but don’t be surprised if one day you look out your window and you see a couple of us with shovels. Go ahead and wave. We’ll wave back.
This is all uncharted territory so thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this together.
Take care and stay healthy,
Interim Executive Director
“Partnering with Friends of Trees has helped teach Wisdom interns management skills; we learn how to manage a business, how to engage with business people, it prepares everybody for employment.” – Alvey Seeyouma, Wisdom Workforce Development Program Coordinator and Crew Leader Supervisor
The Wisdom of the Elders-Friends of Trees partnership began four years ago when our Neighborhood Trees Program needed some post-planting help. We had a number of street trees that didn’t get planted at a Saturday planting event and we were able to contract with Wisdom Workforce to plant those trees.
Soon after that first partnership experience, Wisdom hosted a community conversation for its partners, toward sharing information about how best to partner together in a way that is thoughtful and respectful. We participated in a Talking Circle, where there was honest communication about the native perspective on the dominant culture and environmental issues.
The partnership grew, and Wisdom’s post-planting support evolved to include mulching newly planted trees. Wisdom participants also began engaging on planting day, through training and participating as Crew Leaders, which provided opportunities for the organizations to work together more closely. We’ve now added pruning as a partnership element, providing even more hands on tree care experience.
Wisdom Workforce Program Coordinator Alvey Seeyouma participated in the Urban Forestry Training Program and, through that program, interned with Friends of Trees. Alvey says that the benefits of the partnership extend beyond Friends of Trees and Wisdom of the Elders, “Oh my gosh, I think our partnership benefits all communities. It helps the Wisdom crew leaders become more comfortable with their engagement with the community, so it benefits everyone.” He lists some more benefits of the partnership, “Wisdom interns are learning new skills through the community tree planting events. They’re learning about tree identification, planting techniques, and about community engagement through training as Crew Leaders.”
What would Alvey want folks to know about Friends of Trees? “Friends of Trees is a great organization. Everyone in the office, they’re so helpful, so kind and generous. They want everyone’s experience to be positive; they’ve offered so much training, which we are so grateful for.” Friends of Trees is equally grateful for the opportunity to enhance our organization and our community tree planting events through partnering with Alvey and everyone at Wisdom of the Elders.
Wisdom of the Elders records and preserves traditional cultural values, oral history, prophesy and other messages of guidance from indigenous elders in order to regenerate the greatness of culture among today’s and future generations of native peoples. Learn more at www.wisdomoftheelders.org
Pictured above: Matt, Bruce, Dave and Will of Wisdom of the Elders at a recent SE Portland tree planting event.
“CBO partnerships are especially important for an environmental organization like Friends of Trees because they help us effectively reach low income communities and communities of color, communities that are impacted first and the most by climate change.” -Surabhi Mahajan, Friends of Trees’ Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Specialist
Trees + community is so much more than volunteers planting trees together. True community means that a diverse population has access to all of the benefits of trees, especially historically underserved communities of color. And in order to reach diverse communities we need a diverse range of partnerships.
Friends of Trees is fortunate to enjoy some amazing partnerships, and some particularly amazing partnerships are with Community Benefit Organizations (CBOs). CBOs are community-based nonprofit organizations, are often culturally specific, and provide some sort of community benefit. An example in Portland is Verde, which among other services provides workforce training for the Latinx community.
Friends of Trees’ CBO partners include Verde, Wisdom of the Elders, Black Parent Initiative, the Blueprint Foundation, APANO, and POIC. Most of these organizations are partners in our Urban Forestry Training Program*, which helps connect adults to jobs in the Urban Forestry field (learn more about this program here). Beyond this joint endeavor our CBO partnerships take a few forms:
Verde and Wisdom of the Elders each support our tree planting work through planting event preparation, participation, and follow-up, including post-planting tree care. Verde also provides some contractor services at our Portland office on NE MLK Jr. Blvd (get to know more about Wisdom in the next story).
Black Parent Initiative is a community-based organization that serves Black families or families with Black children through home care visits, economic job opportunities, and other services. The FOT-BPI partnership supports connecting Black families in Portland to nature and to tree planting events, as well as connecting to job training programs in the urban forestry and restoration sector.
The Grounding Waters program of the Blueprint Foundation exposes Black urban youth to careers in environmental science, and paid workforce training with Friends of Trees is part of the program. Grounding Water youth train and participate in planting events as Crew Leaders; Grounding Waters youth will also train and participate as Summer Inspectors, checking on the health of trees planted through our Neighborhood Trees Program, which will provide additional learning opportunities. * Note: The Blueprint Foundation is not a current partner in the Urban Forestry Training program, but is considering the program.
Our partnership with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) focuses on the Jade Greening Project, which is working to increase the canopy of East Portland’s Jade District. Friends of Trees’ involvement includes tree-planting events and targeted community outreach toward getting more trees planted and volunteers engaged. A new feature of this partnership includes our first intern from APANO, whose focus has been supporting planting events through securing food donations from diverse neighborhood businesses and joining the planting teams.
Our partnership with Rosemary Anderson High School’s Portland Opportunity Industrialization Center (POIC) involves hands-on job training and leadership skill-building with high school students. Each season 10-14 POIC students train to be Crew Leaders and they participate in planning and leading Friends of Trees planting events; the students receive stipends as part of this program. Read more about this partnership in our December 2016 edition of Treemail.
Our CBO partnerships provide countless benefits, to both Friends of Trees and to our community. When youth are able to experience leadership positions, and when diverse communities have access to training that leads to internships and jobs with green organizations, preconceived barriers about green jobs and environmental engagement start to break down. Further, the youth interns can serve as role models for other youth volunteers, particularly for young people of color who can be inspired when someone who looks like them has a leadership role.
These partnerships also have an environmental justice aspect. Many of our partners and interns serve or live in under-canopied areas that experience greater impacts from climate change, such as heat islands. Involvement with community tree planting provides a way for participants to address some environmental inequities firsthand.
Equitable partnerships represent a core value of Friends of Trees and are critical to true community building, and we strive toward fostering this type of partnership in the work we do. We are thankful to the support of the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District for support that helps make these partnerships possible.
Pictured above: Urban Forestry Training Program participants from project partners POIC, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Verde, the Black Parent Initiative, and the Pathways to Farming program.
“We need to do something bigger than ourselves.”
– Mohamed, Friends of Trees volunteer since 2014
Mohamed and his wife Farah, and their children and friends, have planted hundreds of trees with us in memory of their daughter, Ayan. Farah very candidly shares why, “Every tree that we plant I feel like it’s for her. And I think about all of the benefits that all these trees will produce … it keeps on giving. It’s a way of sharing her with the world.”
This beautiful video shares the story about why Mohamed, Farah, and their family plant trees together in honor of Ayan:
“When you are outdoors and in nature you tend to forget whatever problems you may have. When you go into nature with others and look at the beauty, how big things are … it has that healing process.” -Mohamed
The more than 50,000 trees and shrubs we plant every year with so many community volunteers transform neighborhoods and natural areas. Trees clean our air and water, cool the planet, provide habitat—and can help us feel better. There are many examples of how trees improve our health; just the act of planting a tree can be personally transformative; digging in the dirt with the hope and intent of something taking root just feels good.
It’s about trees and it’s about community. When we come together to plant trees we are doing something good, we’re making a difference and we’re making our world a better, more welcoming place.
There is so much we can do that is bigger than ourselves. Donating to Friends of Trees’ programs that plant trees and grow community will help our planet and its inhabitants for generations to come. As Mohamed also shared, “Planting trees really will outlive us. The effort that you put is so small, the benefit is just gigantic.”
Thank you for the gigantic act of supporting trees + community. We look forward to planting trees with you!