An incredibly challenging planting season has come to a close and we are indebted to many people who went above and beyond to help make sure 21,000 trees + native shrubs were planted. We’ll be highlighting a few of these folks over the coming months, volunteers who really made a difference, despite the obstacles.
JP Perrine (they/them) started volunteering in Fall 2016 after they moved to Portland, and has been a force to be reckoned with ever since. In JP’s own words:
“I’d moved from Iowa, one of the most deforested states in the country, and I’d chosen to relocate to Oregon in part because of the bounty of forest cover here. I felt so deeply appreciative to have access to so much urban canopy, and I wanted to help ensure that other folks here have access to green spaces. As a newly minted Oregonian, volunteering was also a great way to get my bearings, to meet people from all over the Portland metro area, and to learn about the many local groups involved in habitat restoration and environmental health.
“I joined as a Crew Leader because I love helping people learn and creating welcoming spaces. This year, since plantings have mostly included only FOT staff and Crew Leaders, instead of checking in with volunteers, I’ve mostly been just digging in and planting trees. It’s a very different experience, but it’s helped me be more present and in the moment, enjoying the feel of the dirt, the birdsong, the burble of nearby creeks, the occasional startled wildlife (hello, snakes!), and even sometimes the rain and swampy ground!
“One of my favorite memories was planting at Memorial Park in Wilsonville in December. We were mostly planting understory in an existing forest, and I was delighted to discover that the trees in that forest had been planted by FOT volunteers only a decade or two ago. It was inspiring to see how much change had happened in a relatively short period of time, and it helped me envision what the fields where I’ve planted would look like in years to come. And it was equally inspiring to be planting alongside people who’d put some of those first trees in the ground!”
Do you have any advice for other Crew Leaders?
“At pre-COVID plantings, one of the things I emphasized most during the Crew huddles was that every volunteer should go at their own pace and take as many breaks as they wanted or needed to. Breaks to drink water, to eat a snack, to warm up, to switch out wet gloves for dry ones, to chat with other volunteers. But this year at the first few events, without a crew to check in with, I turned into a nonstop planting machine … which was fun until my body reminded me that I have been sitting a lot more than usual during this COVID year, and that I was suddenly planting way more than I usually did! Plantings have been much more fun since I’ve reminded myself to follow my own advice: take a break, drink some water, grab a snack, find a secluded spot to take a mask-off breather, go see how the other Crew Leaders are faring, enjoy being outside on a Saturday morning.”
Planting manager, Harrison Layer, agrees, “When I think of JP, I think of someone who is dedicated to the task at hand and someone who sees through the varied scenarios that can be presented in a day (like chipping through bundles of bareroot plants on steep hillsides or planting water-loving plants in a splashy wetland—just some examples that come to mind!). I also think of JP as someone who isn’t too serious to laugh or share a story, either. Glad to work with them when I get the opportunity to do so! :^)”
Thank you, JP, for offering your insatiable energy, integrity, and wisdom. As Harrison says, volunteers and staff alike are glad to work with you whenever we get the opportunity!
Photo: That’s JP on the left, with former FOT Urban Forestry intern Alvey on the right.
“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.
Friends of Trees has been partnering with Chemawa Indian School in Salem for more than five years. Our partnership includes training Chemawa students as Crew Leaders for our planting events in Salem and engaging hundreds of Chemawa students at tree planting and tree care events, including activities at the Chemawa Indian School campus.
This partnership has been driven by dedicated teachers and staff at Chemawa who are passionate about creating opportunities for the students to participate in their community through improving the environment while building their leadership skills.
Chemawa teacher Paula Stuart explains why the partnership is so valuable to Chemawa, “Friends of Trees’ offer to donate trees on Chemawa’s campus has increased awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship. Students who might not have otherwise noticed have joined in, sometimes merely tempted by donuts and hot chocolate, then catching the joy of working outside in teams of happy diggers.”
Paula continues, “Science teachers at the school have offered credit for participation and I am ever so happy that this active engagement has influenced several students’ interest in pursuing environmental careers.”
Finish reading here, where you will find the entire November edition of Treemail, our monthly e-news. Want to catch up on past issues of Treemail? They’re here!
“I have a few favorite things about crew leading. One, I get to interact with all kinds of different people; two, I get so many positive remarks and thank you-s for making people so happy—all because I’m wearing a colored vest that associates me with a great cause.” –Ryan, Friends of Trees Crew Leader
If you’ve planted trees with us, then you’ve met a Crew Leader. Crew Leaders are the friendly, knowledgeable folks who teach our volunteer tree-planters how to properly plant trees and use tools, and they’re your #1 go-to for help and questions at a Friends of Trees planting event.
Crew Leader is a key leadership position with Friends of Trees, and is ideal for people who love planting with Friends of Trees and who want to do a bit more. As a Crew Leader you gain valuable leadership skills and lots of tree knowledge! Plus, you get to spend a lot of time outside and you’ll meet an awesome assortment of new people.
So, ready to try something new? We train Crew Leaders every season and our fall trainings are coming up—Join us!
“Friends of Trees’ Crew Leader training program for POIC students creates a sense of community for our youth who are often disconnected from the greater community.” Leigh Rappaport, POIC Program Manager.
Based in North Portland’s Rosemary Anderson High School, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center is a nonprofit that provides at-risk youth with high school education and connects them with career training, including partnering with Friends of Trees.
POIC students participate in a number of Friends of Trees activities, about 20 this planting season. Activities include classroom work on identifying plants and plant selection, but most of the work is outside. Friend of Trees trains POIC students in all aspects of a planting event: site-selection, site-prep, proper planting and staking. Additionally, POIC students train to be Crew Leaders, key leadership roles among FOT volunteers.
“The program creates a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves,” Leigh says. “The students feel that they’re doing something important by helping volunteers learn how to plant trees–and they’re also learning a lot about trees.”
Tree cheers for POIC!