Get to know our partner: Wisdom of the Elders

“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.

This story is from the January 2020 edition of our e-news, Treemail; check out other issues of Treemail here.

A word from our volunteers

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.”

Crew leader recruitment season 2012

By Jenny Bedell-Stiles

This week Friends of Trees wrapped up our biggest crew leader recruitment effort—and what an awesome success it was, thanks to our new recruits! An incredible group of 155 individuals were trained to become crew leaders—an increase of 17% over last season!  These folks are now joining our more experienced crew leaders across the greater Portland-Vancouver and Eugene-Springfield regions.  Together they will be guiding volunteers to plant tens of thousands of trees between now and the end of April!

Green Space Initiative: Dress for Success skit

Green Space Initiative had an all time record recruitment season: 52 new crew leaders (an increase of 62% over last season);

Neighborhood Trees matched last year’s record recruitment season: 88 new crew leaders (we’re flabbergasted that the number is exactly the same);

-Our Eugene office did a stellar job training 15 individuals for only their second ever Friends of Trees style crew leader training.

It is with a great deal of gratitude that I write this blog post. Our crew leaders’ energy, the significant contribution they make to our urban canopy and urban community, and the continued growth in our crew leader ranks, is inspirational.  To all our crew leaders: thank you for all you do! You are the face of Friends of Trees and we couldn’t do this work without your significant energy and leadership!

Did you miss our October and November crew leader trainings but are interested in this role? You might be in luck! We will run two small mid-winter crew leader trainings at the end of January, one for Green Space Initiative and one for Neighborhood Trees. Contact me or Andy if you’re interested and we’ll add you to a list and let you know when the training details are solidified–503-595-0213. Click HERE for more details about this rewarding role.

Bedell-Stiles is the Volunteer & Outreach Specialist for Friends of Trees.

Living it up & loving trees in Vancouver

Garry Oak in Vancouver, WA
Friends of Trees mascot Garry Oak at the April 2012 Arbor Day Celebration in Vancouver (FOT file)

Like trees? Live in Vancouver, WA, or nearby?

Check out these upcoming events to learn how to plant and prune trees, to see first-hand how the city’s plantings keep streams clean and cool, and to celebrate the oldest living apple tree in the Northwest. The Old Apple Tree Festival on Oct. 6 includes live music, children’s activities, apple cider pressing, and even a scarecrow contest.

The first of these events begins tonight! For more information or to reserve a space in a class or workshop, contact Jessica Antoine at 360-487-8308 or jessica.antoine@cityofvancouver.us.

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Time to order your own street tree

Neighborhood Trees Crew Leader Training #2
Last season's crew leader training and neighborhood planting in Sellwood (FOT file)

Check out the story There’s still time to order your own street tree in “The Bee.”

Below are excerpts:

When Sellwood resident Noah Jenkins talks about an upcoming neighborhood street tree planting event, he’s quick to point out that the new trees will be placed in the “planting strips” next to the curb.

A planting strip is what some call a parking strip — generally the grass-covered area between the sidewalk and the street. And, on November 5, in a partnership of the City of Portland and Friends of Trees, volunteers will spread out in Sellwood and Westmoreland to help plant yard and street trees. Similar plantings are upcoming for Brooklyn and Eastmoreland.

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