News from Friends of Trees

December 2020

trees combat climate change

Reflections on 2020: The year of the pivot

More like multiple pivots, really. Just like trees though, flexibility to bend and not break in the storm is how we modeled ourselves this year. Despite canceling, postponing and downsizing many volunteer planting events due to the pandemic, in 2020 we still planted 38,000 trees and native shrubs with the support of more than 5,000 volunteers. COVID-19, the racial justice uprisings, and signs of a changing climate caused us to look inward, and recommit to why we do what we do. These are our biggest takeaways from 2020, with some feedback from supporters sprinkled in:

It’s all about community and accomplishing something hard, together. To our volunteers and supporters: In the darkest times of this year, your patience, conviction, and generosity have buoyed us. Every time you reach out, get a tree, volunteer, or donate, you cast a vote for the future you want. This has been a year of unpredictability, but we know one thing with steadfast certainty: with people like you, we can move mountains.

What we’ve heard:

  • Keep holding events! Everyone in my pruning group was so thankful to be outside and get to interact with other people from a distance. We also had numerous residents come out and let us know how thankful they are that FOT provides this service.
  • I learned so much! About the plants, how to plant them, best species for flooded areas. It was really fun!
  • Got a great deal on five new trees for my back yard. Met some great people and laughed together. Made a new friend too!
  • Thank you for supporting our community and the environment one tree at a time. I’m so thankful for the work you do on a daily basis.

Moving toward being an anti-racist and inclusive organization and society takes continual work. The pandemic has illustrated racial disparities in this country. There are also divisions along race lines regarding who has access to nature and the outdoors, who benefits from jobs in the fields of urban forestry, and who receives the benefits of urban trees. We are tackling each of these challenges with steadfast resolve. Simultaneously, we’re seeking to rid ourselves and our programming of white supremacy.

Supporters’ feedback:

  • I found the section on Environmental Justice and information on Portland tree canopy distribution to be particularly interesting. Lessons I learned about interrupting problematic language is definitely transferable to my day-to-day life.
  • Thank you for the work you do and the voices you lift!
  • Although I have previously read about privilege it was useful to consider it in relation to tree planting.
  • You taught me my subconscious bias around using pronouns and I love you for it.

Going outside and engaging in community service are important for mental health. Studies show that both outdoor exposure and volunteering lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. We miss our big planting events. We’ll never take for granted ever again the beauty of being outside with a big group of people digging in the soil. When safer times are here, we want to make the next planting season our biggest yet!

  • Keep up the hard work and dedication to this environmental necessity. Thank you for finding a way to keep the needle moving forward.
  • The group I was with had great leaders, and an amazing group of people- we faced several obstacles throughout the day, and we tackled them all head-on, as a team. There was no conflict, arguments, nothing negative – it was entirely teamwork, lots of laughs and we all felt like we were productive! Plus I got a good workout! 
  • You are an awesome organization and I am happy to be a part of your family.

What else did we take away from 2020? More than one out of three of our staff say their easy-button pandemic food is frozen pizza. At 22% of our staff team, the most popular food for daily eating is chocolate. And we think we finally learned how to properly wash our hands.

In our volunteer surveys, we commonly ask folks, “Is there anything in particular that made your experience good or bad? One recent response: “It was over too quickly.” While we can’t say the same for 2020, we certainly had some fun times, and tried to make the best of a challenging situation.

Here’s to a tree-filled 2021!

Get to Know Friends of Trees’ new Executive Director: Yashar Vasef

Friends of Trees is thrilled to introduce our new Executive Director, Yashar Vasef!

Yashar joins Friends of Trees via the Community Cycling Center where he served as Development Director since 2017. Over the years, he has worked in roles advocating for issues such as human rights in Iran, refugee aid, and the global climate crisis.

Yashar shares a little about his connection to Friends of Trees’ mission, “I have always connected spiritually through trees. When I lived in Iran, during the ceasefires of the Iran-Iraq War my family often escaped to the northern forests where the trees provided some much-needed tranquility.”

When he’s not working, Yashar is propagating plants, cycling, hiking, watching Star Trek, playing Nintendo or listening to records. Yashar officially joins the Tree Team in mid-January; look for a Hello letter from him in February.


News from Friends of Trees Eugene

As we get into the 2020-21 planting season, with all its new features and pivots, we’ve been taking some time to reflect on last season when over 1,100 trees and native shrubs were planted in the Eugene area, with the help of 637 community members who volunteered 1,800+ hours. That’s a lot of tree + community growth!

One of our favorite events was on MLK Day of Service in partnership with the City of Eugene’s Parks and Open Space (pictured above). This planting was made possible by Kids Sports who allowed staff and volunteers to stage in their parking lot and our very generous sponsors, Mountain Rose Herbs.

Volunteers, including groups from the University of Oregon and Starbucks, came together to plant in Westmoreland Park and in Friendly and Southeast neighborhoods. Thanks to the support of these community members, 35 street and yard trees and 54 park trees were planted. Thanks to the lovely neighbors receiving trees, Starbucks, and Papa’s Pizza, volunteers feasted on a well deserved breakfast before the event and a potluck lunch after!

We are so excited to partner once again with the City of Eugene’s Parks and Open Space to plant more trees in West Eugene neighborhoods on MLK Day of Service 2021. This event and all others this season will follow COVID safety guidelines. Find out how you can get involved here.

 Here’s what some volunteers shared about planting with Friends of Trees:

Friends of Trees does a great job of engaging volunteers in meaningful work and letting them know their work is valued and important. I hope the small paid staff is getting the financial support and appreciation it deserves.

Here are two things I love about volunteering with Friends of Trees: 1) Hanging out with an awesome group of people, 2) seeing the trees we planted grow over the years (especially in my neighborhood and places I go on a daily basis).

I had a really fun day with a group of volunteers visiting a home with two young children, two teenagers, and a pet pig! We planted three trees in the yard and the little kids named each tree – I remember one of them was christened Spaghetti – and we all took a group picture with the pig. It was just a really fun moment of coming into the lives of people I probably never would have met otherwise and having a really joyful experience with other volunteers.

Stay connected! Visit, like, follow and engage with the Eugene Tree Team on our Facebook and Instagram pages.


JOIN US on the morning of December 31 for LIVE virtual tree walks!

Tree Team member Harrison will be live from NE Portland’s Alberta Park at 10:30 a.m. on Facebook and 11:00 a.m. on Instagram. Let trees + nature help ease you into 2021.

Photo: Alberta Park 1929, courtesy of City of Portland archives

‘Tis the Give!Guide Season!

Willamette Week’s Give!Guide runs through December 31st and is a great way to learn about organizations that are doing amazing work on behalf of people, places, critters and causes (including trees + community, of course ;). And if you donate $10+ on December 29, you’ll be entered into a raffle for an incredibly dreamy McMinnville Oregon Wine Country getaway – mark your calendar and THANK YOU!

Thank you to our Give!Guide business partners HOTLIPS Pizza and Level Beer.

We’re hiring!

Do you love native plants, natural area restoration, and planting trees? Do you love engaging people in learning about the natural world around us? Do you have experience working with agency partners toward a common goal?

Friends of Trees is seeking a Green Space Program Manager who will continue to deepen longtime partnerships as well as grow new ones. If you or someone you know might be interested, please check out the job description and apply by December 30th.


Plant trees in 2021!

As of this writing we plan to get back into tree planting in January! And as they were in 2020, our events in 2021 will be modified as part of our COVID response to ensure they are as safe and healthy as possible, more information is here.

Our volunteer events calendar is updated with January – April volunteer events. Click on any of the green events if you’re interested in registering for a small, 25-person volunteer event (read more on our COVID safety protocols). If state or county COVID regulations cause us to cancel any event, we will notify everyone signed-up.

We especially need volunteers at these events:

  • Jan 16th: Gateway Green, NE Portland
  • Jan 30th: TriMet Main Street MAX, SE Portland
  • Jan 30th: Windswept Waters, Happy Valley

Other ways to get involved:


Friends of Trees inspires people to improve the natural

world around them through a simple solution:

Planting Trees. Together.

(503) 282-8846: Portland office

(541) 632-3683: Eugene office

Learn more about how Friends of Trees greens our region + grows community through checking out other issues of Treemail here