Friends of Trees’ 2019-20 planting season will be remembered for so many things beyond how many trees we planted with you. Of course, COVID-19 and the premature end to the season’s community tree planting events forced creativity and flexibility like never before (learn about our flexibility here), and continues to play a role in planning for our next tree planting season in order to have events that are safe and welcoming.
Heightened mandates for racial justice compelled Friends of Trees and so many other organizations and businesses to take deep dives into exploring and implementing practices and policies that help promote a just society. We take this all very seriously and will regularly share updates about our EDI programming and efforts in our social media channels and through Treemail. Now more than ever we feel that coming together to plant, care for, and learn about trees can play a crucial role in improving our social as well as natural environments, and we are so fortunate that we get to do this with all of you.
We look forward to sharing what community tree planting will look like this fall; meanwhile, we’re thrilled to share some highlights from our 31st season of community tree planting where, in spite of so many canceled events due to COVID, we still planted 51,189 trees and native shrubs with more than 6,000 volunteers. Friendships were made, people directly connected with the environment and the earth (sometimes for the first time!), and partnerships grew.
Here are some of our favorite moments (be sure to keep reading to the Eugene Branch for more highlights!):
Photo above: Luscher Farms site in Lake Oswego, you can read about that partnership here.
Yusr gives back through tree planting. Green Space Program
We often say that you can meet so many people from all over at a Friends of Trees volunteer event, and this year we had the pleasure of planting with Yusr from Bahrain! Yusr, a foreign exchange student who spent her senior year attending high school in Portland, volunteered at our Mitchell Creek planting event in March (you can read more about that site here). That day we planted vine maples, serviceberries, tall Oregon grape, and many other native plants that were new to Yusr. In turn, we’ve now learned about Bahrain’s most famous tree, the Tree of Life, a Prosopis cineraria that is more than 400 years old and has roots more than 150 feet deep!
Yusr was shy at first but soon she was happy to talk about her experience living for a year so far from home with a host family, and how interested she was in volunteering at a natural area. Yusr shared, “I wanted to come out [to plant] to be more active in the community and to give back. I’m excited to meet more people and explore more activities in the Portland area.” In fact, Yusr loved Portland so much she wants to come back soon (as a volunteer planter, we hope!).
Photo: Yusr (left) planting with Crew Leader Theresa (Theresa has also been on our Outreach team)
Making tree planting accessible. Volunteer & Outreach and Neighborhood Trees programs
Tam, a volunteer who has also been on our Outreach staff, reached out to the Portland deaf community via Facebook, wanting to engage folks in tree planting; she also reached out to students from Portland Community College’s Interpreting Program. The result? Our February event in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood included two crews from the deaf community, all of whom were first time planters with us.
Tam explained her motivation for helping to bring this together, “There are lots of communities that get left out of things, and this is one community that I have connections to. There is always room for more diversity.”
In order to fully accommodate the crews with deaf volunteers we engaged IRCO for American Sign Language translation support. Tam’s friends were very happy with the translation, and the two interpreters enjoyed the event, expressing interest in future involvement.
There was also a great connection between the deaf volunteers and the PCC Interpreting students. One of the PCC participants, Madison, praised the event and the IRCO ASL signers, “Thank you for providing an interpreter at your event, and promoting accessibility. We were delighted to take part in the day, and to observe the interpreters in action. We hope to attend more tree planting events in the future, and look forward to seeing you all there.”
Tam shares yet another benefit of community tree planting, “When people get together to do something physical, you don’t need to all speak the same language to communicate effectively. This is why tree planting is really nice for people of any background who speak any language.”
Photo: A crew with deaf volunteers and an ASL interpreter sign “tree.” Tam is on the far right; far left is former Outreach Team member Jane-Clair.
Sure, you can visit the staff page on our website for our email addresses and our titles, but who are we, really? What do we do for fun? What’s our favorite tree? If we taught a class, what would the subject be? (and would you take it 😉
Find the answers to all that – and so much more – on our new web page, Beneath the Bark: Fun Facts, Tree Team Tidbits and Staff Secrets.
Here are some tasty tidbits to give you an idea about what’s in store. Get to know …
Tree art by Candace, 4th grade