Volunteers talk, we listen.
As we prepare for our 31st season of planting trees + growing community we’re taking time to reflect on the feedback of the folks who make this all possible: our incredible and unparalleled volunteers.
We know there’s a lot to love about volunteering with Friends of Trees, and we also know we’re not perfect. To find out what works and what doesn’t, last season we surveyed more than 500 volunteers after events; here’s a sampling of what we learned and how we’re incorporating the feedback to make our programs stronger.
Would you recommend volunteering with Friends of Trees? Yes, absolutely!
96% of survey respondents would recommend volunteering with Friends of Trees.
“It was nice to do something for the community with good people.”
We also learned that the majority of volunteers came out because they wanted to do something good.
More good news:
The average “grade” for the Friends of Trees volunteer experience was a B+ (89); more volunteers than not felt more connected to their community after volunteering; and the vast majority learned something new about trees or the environment and felt prepared for their volunteer experience.
“Really nice people. I have volunteered 7 or 8 times and loved every time.”
“Those running the program were great, the people I met were great. This was a good feeling, getting out and helping like-minded individuals accomplish something for the greater good. Thanks for that!”
“Planting a tree in my yard with my neighbors was a great experience and memory that I will cherish.”
“It is wonderful to see so much community spirit. I loved seeing the bicycle delivery team!”
Folks had questions or need more information about:
What to expect at a Friends of Trees volunteer event.
“Even a rainy day failed to dampen my enthusiasm.”
We get it, not everyone loves to be outside early on a Saturday morning in the cold rain planting trees in the mud. Of course, it’s not always like that, but tree planting season is October – April because cool, wet conditions are best for the trees, giving the young trees we’re planting the absolute best chance of survival.
We plant trees. Lots of trees. Thousands of trees. And we do this in all weather – warm and sunny, cold and rainy. It gets muddy. It’s physical. This is how we make a difference – and, together, we make a big one: 50,000+ trees and native shrubs planted every a year, with more than 800,000 trees and shrubs planted since 1989.
Cold rain not for you? No problem, there are other ways you can help make a difference, through helping secure food for events, making phone calls, driving a truck … learn more about other volunteer roles here.
We learned that not everyone loves a bucket brigade. We do our best to let folks know what they’re in for, be it a tree planting event or a tree care event, and we’ll do more to let folks know the difference between volunteering for a tree planting event and a tree care event—because, yes, we want the trees we plant to survive and thrive so we do tree care, too!
The use of pronouns during introductions.
Friends of Trees will always strive to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, regardless of age, ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, economic status or anything else that makes you special. Without our volunteers, we are nothing. But together we do amazing things.
There were quite a few comments about our use of pronouns during introductions (for example, “My name is Jenny, I use she/her pronouns.” Or, he/him, they/them, etc.). Most were very positive but some people didn’t understand why we do this.
We understand that getting used to anything new can cause some people to feel a little uncomfortable or can simply just generate questions; we believe it’s well worth it so that others feel seen and welcome.
This response sums it up perfectly:
“As a trans person I really appreciated the affirmation of gender pronouns! It was much nicer that everyone shared at the start than having to correct people later :)”
As a community driven organization Friends of Trees fosters an atmosphere of inclusion and support. We continually work to improve and enhance these efforts and we are so grateful that our community of volunteers supports this:
“I will cherish the fact that in a group of volunteers ranging in age from 10- 65, people were using their pronouns as they introduce themselves. I think it was a learning experience for everyone.”
“I appreciate that you’re trying to reach out for a more diverse population of volunteers.”
“Everyone was so welcoming and kind.”
“There didn’t seem to be enough trees for our group.” “There were so many trees to plant!”
At most of our 100+ events we get the ratio of volunteers:trees planted right. We also acknowledge there is a fine line between too many volunteers and not enough volunteers, and walking this line is both an art and a science.
We assess the planting location, the number of trees to be planted, types and sizes of trees and shrubs, the size of the planting site, how many volunteers attended last year … all of this factors into how many volunteers are ideal for each location and we create a goal for each event. Sometimes more folks show up than registered; other times, people don’t show up. We’re humans, this happens. We do our best to account for this and create the best volunteer experience possible.
We sincerely value the time and effort of our volunteers and regularly work on how best to ensure each event has the ideal number of volunteers to trees. Last season we began asking all volunteers, not just groups, to pre-register for events and that’s made a big difference. And guess what? Registration for the 2019-2020 Friends of Trees season is now open! Check out our event calendar and registration information and join us for another season of planting trees + growing community.
We’ll leave you with one final quote:
“These times in our world are troubled and the news is often grim; each time I volunteer for a Friends of Trees planting I receive a huge dose of hopefulness. The sheer numbers of volunteers with all their varying stories coming together to volunteer when it is cold, wet, muddy is a great dose of joy. Plus, I have been to places previously unknown to me. Abundant riches are added to my life each time.”
Well it is sunny for once in Oregon and I’m glad it’s not too hot since I know the trees aren’t huge fans of 90 degree heat for multiple days. Although, that’s not the case for humans but you can’t have it all. Enough of the weather, I want to talk to you all about an exciting volunteer role that we are recruiting for here at Friends of Trees. We are looking for folks to jump into the role of Neighborhood Coordinator! But what does a Neighborhood Coordinator entail? Great question!
Here is a brief explanation of what the volunteer role might look for you: Together, NCs and Friends of Trees staff guide neighborhood plantings from beginning to end. No need to be an expert! Interested volunteers will be trained and supported throughout the planting that you will be coordinating. Together with staff, you will:
- Help coordinate one neighborhood planting per year (November-April);
- Respond to homeowner inquiries by email & phone;
- Make phone calls to homeowners that have not ordered their tree(s) to help them make their decision;
- Solicit pick-up trucks or open trailer pullers from neighbors;
- Recruit additional volunteers (Takes quite a few volunteers for one planting);
- Solicit food/monetary donations from the community for breakfast/lunch;
- Set up/coordinate breakfast & lunch for the volunteers on planting day
This is just a brief snapshot of what the volunteer role could be for you! We need NCs in these neighborhoods below:
Here are a few pictures that illustrate the results of what NCs accomplish:
If you know of anyone interested in the role (or yourself) and happen to be in a neighborhood listed in the table above please send them our way, share this blog with them, and cross your fingers that they sign up for the role with our handy registration form. REMEMBER, the best way to share volunteer opportunities is still through word of mouth (or text since that’s how folks seem to communicate nowadays).
Hope you continue to have a great Summer and kudos to you for making it through this detailed blog post!!
Pablo Brito is the Volunteer & Outreach Specialist for Friends of Trees
We love our volunteers, for so many reasons. Of course, reason #1 is that volunteers are key to getting 50,000+ trees and native shrubs in the ground every season. Another reason? Fun Bingo responses! At our recent volunteer appreciation party Friends of Trees Bingo featured factoids about FOT, trees and volunteering–and some of those answers were pretty fun. Check it out (“real” answers provided, too):
What is a tree’s favorite beer?
Lager | Root Beer | Rain-here/Rain-eer/Rainier
Is there a correct answer? This is actually a great opportunity to share important information about the water needs of newly planted trees: 15 gallons a week during the dry summer months for the first few years a tree is in the ground. This requirement has changed as our climate has warmed up, so be sure to water those thirsty trees! Find more tree care tidbits here.
Find someone who first started volunteering this season
Me! | Barry | Carmen
We LOVE that you, Barry, Carmen and so many other community members came out and volunteered with us this season! We hear all the time that a Friends of Trees planting event is the first time someone volunteered for anything; we also hear that one of our events is often the first time someone planted anything. What’s even better: So many first-time volunteers and first-time planters come back again and again for more. This is so special, and just what our community needs. Haven’t yet volunteered with Friends of Trees? Explore how.
What’s a tip for working with kids on a tree planing crew?
Plant the kid in the first hole | Have them look for worms | Snacks | Worms | Snacks
Friends of Trees engages more than 2,000 young people every season, through planting events and school-based partnerships. Our education programming for youth from elementary to high school combines classroom curriculum with field work, helping to grow the next Tree Team generation. Learn more about young people getting their hands dirty through planting trees.
What is the most common genus of tree planted in most major cities, including Portland?
OK, so pretty much everyone had the correct answer without even a pun. But this is a great way to remind folks about the importance of planting a diverse variety of trees: Tree diversity helps protect against species-specific pests and diseases, which in turn helps ensure a healthy canopy. Tree diversity also supports a wide range of pollinators and other beneficial insects, and so much more, which is why Friends of Trees strives to provide a diverse tree selection list everywhere we plant. Interested in getting a tree from Friends of Trees? Here’s the first step.
Name two FOT planting partners
City of Tualatin | Verde | POIC | PGE | City of Portland | Portland Trail Blazers
We received lots of correct answers and maybe this wasn’t the most humorous category. But we want to use this apparently easy Bingo answer to share that partnerships are just as necessary to our mission as volunteers, and we have so many partnerships. The photo above represents a few:
- The planting is in Portland’s Cully neighborhood, where our planting partner Verde is based.
- All Neighborhood Trees planting events in Portland neighborhoods are in partnership with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.
- Pictured in the photo are planters representing a couple of partners: Deward (2nd from left) is a POIC student and FOT Crew Leader, and Julieta (far right) is from David Douglas High School. Our POIC partnership involves student development, education and job training through students training and serving as FOT Crew Leaders; and, for more than six years DDHS students have volunteered at our outer-southeast Portland tree-planting events. (also pictured: Crew Leader Carmen, 1st on the left, and FOT staffers Manuel and Pablo, 3rd and 4th from left)
Further, sponsors such as the Portland Trail Blazers are also crucial to the success of our program, since their support is key to bridging funding gaps. In fact, Trail Blazers was the most common response to this question — #ripcity! (read about our 3s For Trees partnership below). We’d love for your business to join us as a sponsor!
There is so much more to know about trees and Friends of Trees, hone up here!
Asociación para empleos y oportunidades en Verde ~ Partnering for jobs and opportunity with Verde (English version here)
“Las asociaciones como la que disfrutamos con la organización Friends of Trees (Amigos de los árboles) son las que realmente han hecho posible el modelo de iniciativa social de Verde. Las asociaciones como esta han permitido que nuestro programa proporcione empleos con salarios dignos, que cuentan con beneficios y oportunidades de capacitación, a muchas personas de bajos ingresos y personas de color que viven en el área de Portland”. —Ricardo Moreno, gerente de Verde Builds, exgerente de Verde Landscape
Al celebrar 30 años de árboles + comunidad, también debemos homenajear a nuestros notorios socios que intervienen para brindar apoyo siempre que hace más falta contar con una mano amiga.
Durante esta época del año con presencia de nieve y hielo, mantuvimos la calma sabiendo que, incluso con las cancelaciones de los eventos, nuestros socios en Verde Northwest estarían ahí para sacarnos del apuro.
Verde brinda servicio a las comunidades al crear riqueza ambiental a través de iniciativas sociales, promoción comunitaria y defensa. Desde el año 2005, Verde aporta nuevas inversiones ambientales a los vecindarios de Portland, involucra a miembros de la comunidad en la planificación y el desarrollo de tales inversiones, y colabora para garantizar que las personas de bajos ingresos y las personas de color se beneficien directamente de las inversiones en espacios verdes, hábitat, eficiencia energética y energía renovable, calles verdes, instalaciones de gestión de aguas pluviales, educación ambiental, empleos verdes y empresas verdes.
“Cuesta creerlo, pero este año se conmemora el 10.º aniversario de la asociación entre Verde y Friends of Trees. Recuerdo vívidamente el invierno de 2009 cuando Verde Landscape recibió el primer encargo de Friends of Trees para plantar árboles en sitios comerciales Era algo realmente nuevo para nosotros y, personalmente, me sentí un poco intimidado, pero con la ayuda y la capacitación que recibimos de nuestros grandes socios y amigos de Friends of Trees, la plantación de árboles en el área metropolitana de Portland se convirtió rápidamente en una de las actividades favoritas de Verde Landscape, y, en la actualidad, estamos orgullosos de decir que Verde ayudó a Friends of Trees a plantar miles de árboles en toda el área de Portland.
“Las asociaciones como la que disfrutamos con la organización Friends of Trees (Amigos de los árboles) son las que realmente han hecho posible el modelo de iniciativa social de Verde. Las asociaciones como esta han permitido que nuestro programa proporcione empleos con salarios dignos, que cuentan con beneficios y oportunidades de capacitación, a muchas personas de bajos ingresos y personas de color que viven en el área de Portland. Nuestro programa también ofrece oportunidades para que los miembros de nuestro equipo hagan la transición a empleos mejor remunerados, no solo en Verde, sino también en otras organizaciones locales. Este programa también abre el camino a oportunidades laborales que los conectan con el ambiente natural y que restauran las áreas verdes en los vecindarios donde viven, normalmente los vecindarios que carecen de los beneficios ambientales de los vecindarios céntricos de Portland”. —Ricardo Moreno, gerente de Verde Builds, exgerente de Verde Landscape
Cuando cancelamos una plantación debido a las condiciones climáticas, ¡el impacto es inmenso! Debemos comunicarnos con los voluntarios, cambiar el destino de plantación de árboles, posponer las donaciones de alimentos, los anillos de riego se vuelven viejos… y la lista continúa. Deben hacerse cientos de llamadas telefónicas, y nuestro equipo trabaja con mucho esfuerzo para organizar todo, hasta el último detalle.
Algunos eventos pueden reprogramarse, pero otros son demasiado complejos para contar con esa flexibilidad. En tales casos, con el apoyo económico de nuestros socios de la Oficina de Servicios Ambientales de la ciudad de Portland, nuestros amigos de Verde plantan los árboles que, de lo contrario, no podrían plantarse en Portland. Ellos acuden a la oficina, recogen los árboles y se van. Esta asociación nos permite reenfocarnos en el próximo evento importante, mientras se plantan los árboles cuanto antes.
Otro aspecto notable de trabajar con Verde fue el proyecto conjunto A New Forest Grows (Nace un nuevo bosque) que permitió plantar más de 4,000 árboles a lo largo del sendero multiuso de la Interestatal 205 para crear un circuito natural verde para peatones, ciclistas y las comunidades vecinas. Verde trabajó con mucho esmero para mantener los árboles en estos lugares desafiantes, con agua y cuidados. Esta asociación entre el Consejo Metropolitano, el Departamento de Transporte de Oregon y Verde se ha convertido en un modelo para otros proyectos y continuará brindando beneficios durante muchos años.
Recientemente, Verde también se asoció con Friends of Trees para fortalecer nuestro Programa de capacitación en silvicultura urbana para adultos (que ha sido posible gracias al financiamiento del Distrito de Conservación de Suelo y Agua de East Multnomah). Verde nominó a cuatro personas de su red para que participen en nuestro programa de capacitación y pasantías durante el último período de otoño-invierno. Este programa ofrece la oportunidad de establecer contactos y de estar expuestos a empleos en el campo ambiental, especialmente en silvicultura urbana y trabajos de restauración. Mediante esta asociación, Verde también acoge a un pasante en su organización.
“Admiro realmente el trabajo que ha realizado Friends of Trees a lo largo de todos estos años al reunir a la comunidad y hacer que nuestros espacios sean más verdes, más saludables y más hermosos. Me siento honrado de haber formado parte de esta gran asociación y espero seguir trabajando y colaborando juntos durante muchos años más para el bienestar de nuestras comunidades y de nuestro ambiente”. —Ricardo Moreno
“It’s really partnerships like the one we enjoy with Friends of Trees that have made Verde’s social enterprise model possible. Partnerships like this have allowed our program to provide living wage jobs with benefits and training opportunities to many low-income and people of color living in the Portland area.” –Ricardo Moreno, Verde Builds Manager
As we celebrate 30 years of trees + community, we must also celebrate our incredible partners who step in to support wherever a helping hand is needed most.
During this season’s icy & snowy conditions we took a deep breath knowing that even with event cancellations, our partners at Verde Northwest would be there to save the day.
Verde serves communities by building environmental wealth through social enterprise, outreach, and advocacy. Since 2005, Verde has brought new environmental investments to Portland’s neighborhoods; involved community members in the planning and building of these investments; and has helped ensure that low-income people and people of color directly benefit from investments in greenspaces, habitat, energy efficiency and renewable energy, green streets, stormwater management facilities, environmental education, green jobs, and green businesses.
“It’s hard to believe but this year marks the 10th anniversary of Verde and Friends of Trees partnership. I vividly remember the winter of 2009 when Verde Landscape received its first tree planting assignment on commercial sites from Friends of Trees. It was all very new to us and I personally felt a bit intimidated by it, but with the help and training we received from our great partners and friends at Friends of Trees, planting trees in the Portland Metro area quickly became one of Verde Landscape’s favorite activities and now we’re proud to say that Verde has helped Friends of Trees plant thousands of trees all over Portland.
“It’s really partnerships like the one we enjoy with Friends of Trees that have made Verde’s social enterprise model possible. Partnerships like this have allowed our program to provide living wage jobs with benefits and training opportunities to many low-income and people of color living in the Portland area. Our program also provides opportunities for our crew members to transition to higher paying jobs, not only within Verde but also with other local organizations. This program also creates pathways to job opportunities that connect them to the natural environment and restore landscapes in the neighborhoods they live in, typically neighborhoods that lack the environmental benefits of Portland’s inner neighborhoods.” -Ricardo Moreno, Verde Builds Manager (Previously Verde Landscape Manager)
When we cancel a planting due to the weather, the impacts are huge! Volunteers must be contacted, trees re-routed, food donations put on hold, donuts grow old … the list goes on. Hundreds of phone calls must be made and our team works diligently until every last detail has been taken care of.
Some events can be rescheduled, but others are just too complex to allow us that flexibility. In these cases, with financial support from our partners at The City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, our friends at Verde plant the trees that were otherwise unable to be planted in Portland. They come to the office, pick up the trees, and off they go. This partnership allows us to refocus on the next big event, while getting trees into the ground as soon as possible.
Another highlight of working with Verde was the A New Forest Grows collaborative that planted more than 4,000 trees along the I-205 multi-use path to create a green buffer for pedestrians, cyclists, and the neighboring communities. Verde worked diligently to support the trees in these challenging sites with water and care. This partnership with Metro, ODOT, and Verde has become a model for other projects and will continue to provide benefits for years to come.
Recently, Verde has also partnered with Friends of Trees to strengthen our Adult Urban Forestry Training Program (made possible thanks to funding from East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District). Verde nominated four individuals from their network to participate in our paid training and internship program this past fall and winter. This program provides networking and exposure to jobs in the environmental field, particularly in urban forestry and restoration work. Verde is also hosting an intern at their location through this partnership.
“I truly admire the work that Friends of Trees has done through all these years by bringing community together and making our spaces greener, healthier and more beautiful. I’m honored to have been a part of this great partnership and I look forward to many more years of working and collaborating together for the well-being of our communities and our environment.” –Ricardo Moreno
photo credit: left and right photos courtesy of Verde, center photo courtesy of City of Portland, BES.
“Each Friends of Trees planting event is a series of moments, whether it’s somebody seeing a lizard, or a kid planting their first tree, or people who just happened to be walking by pitching in to help. One of the best moments is at the end of the day when everyone has a big smile on their face because they’ve really accomplished something: they planted trees.” Matt, Friends of Trees volunteer
Did you know that the oldest tree in the world is 5,062 years old? It’s a Pinus longaeva (Great Basin bristlecone pine) and it’s in California.
While we can’t claim with certainty that Friends of Trees just planted the newest tree in the world, it is possible, at least for a moment on any given Saturday, October-April, that we did indeed just plant the newest tree in the world. That’s another Friends of Trees moment: adding a tree–to our region, to our planet. And there are more than 50,000 moments like that every tree planting season.
As we celebrate the Winter Solstice and welcome the return of the sun we’re thinking about the various ways the shortest day of the year is celebrated, especially, of course, the celebrations that include trees. We’ve learned that some Winter Solstice celebrations include specific trees that have specific meanings; for instance, for some observants evergreens symbolize continuity of life, and oak trees symbolize endurance, strength, protection, and good luck.
We love this. Here’s how Friends of Trees interprets these special meanings of evergreens and oaks:
Continuity of life: trees provide oxygen!
Endurance, strength: trees can live to be hundreds, thousands of years old.
Protection: trees clean our air and water and help make us healthy.
Good luck: to me, it’s clear: the more trees we have, the luckier we are.
A recent paper by U.S. Forest Service scientists* reported that metropolitan areas in the U.S. are losing more than 30 million trees each year. This is tragic, but thanks to Friends of Trees’ friends and supporters, we’re not fretting, we’re taking action and tackling this loss, together, one moment at a time, one tree at a time – at more than 50,000 moments, and 50,000 trees, every year. You can help us take positive action through making a donation to Friends of Trees today! Your support helps grow our urban canopy, restore sensitive natural areas, and helps build community through planting trees – together.
Happy Solstice to you and yours, we look forward to longer days, the return of the sun, and more trees – join us!