Volunteer Spotlight: Martha & the Neighborhood Coordinator role

As part of our series shining the spotlight on some folks who make all this community tree planting possible, here’s Martha, a Neighborhood Coordinator!

Martha Irvinve (She/Her, second from right) volunteers as a Neighborhood Coordinator, which is a crucial volunteer role in a typical season. NCs work closely with staff members to help answer questions from tree recipients, create outreach strategies, and they help organize the annual neighborhood planting day.

Martha has been NCing and helping FOT prep for planting events for about nine years now; she shares a little about her experience:

Q: Why did you choose to volunteer with Friends of Trees?

A: I’ve been volunteering in various capacities for a wide variety of organizations since my Girl Scout days. I fell in love with volunteering for Friends of Trees because the results of our efforts are so tangible. Also, FOT has a clear vision of what it wants/needs from its volunteers so I always felt productive. Previously, with other organizations, I have had the experience of showing up to volunteer for some activity and the organizers would try to come up with what I might be able to do. Not so with Friends of Trees, there the mission is clear and the tasks well defined.

What advice would you give to other NCs who are fresh into their role?

When we step up to volunteer, we all bring different skills to the table. I would say to begin as NC take on those tasks that you feel comfortable with. As you grow in the role try on some tasks to challenge yourself. For me that was stepping up to say something at the plantings = I do not like public speaking but it’s not so bad when you are talking about something that you are passionate about.

Do you have any volunteer memories that stand out?

A favorite memory is of planting one year with a family who lives around the corner from me. I was out planting that day with a crew that included said family. The two children were about 3 and 6 and they came along with their parents. The 3 year old girl was intrigued by the earth worms in the ground and the 6 year old boy enjoyed digging a bit and then helping compact the soil after the tree was in the ground. The children seemed to delight in helping. But the best part was later when I saw their mother in the neighborhood and she said that her kids knew exactly which trees they had helped plant and they continued to point them out. What’s better than getting kids into planting trees?!

Learn more about the amazingness of Neighborhood Coordinators here. We’ll know more soon about NCs will participate in our upcoming season so keep an eye on this page. Thank you Martha, and all NCs!

Volunteer Spotlight: Joel Finkelstein

Volunteer Joel Finkelstein truly embodies what FoT is all about. “I can’t say I’m the best at identifying trees,” Joel admits, “but to me, FoT is all about the people and the community bonds that are made.” Joel has been a Neighborhood Trees Crew Leader for over 10 years, the Brooklyn Neighborhood Coordinator for 3 years, and a Pruning Leader with the Community Tree Care program. He’s also been known to stop by the office out of the blue to say hi. “If I show up early enough, there’s usually coffee on–and some darn good roasted beans, at that”

What is your earliest tree memory?
There was an oak tree in my back yard that meant a lot to me. I built my first swing and a pretty crooked fort, and over 10 feet up—pretty high up there, for a 12 year old. I actually fell out of that tree one time, and remember thinking “I just fell flat on my back, from way up in that tree, ouch!” That tree and I spent many years together, I basically grew up with that oak tree.
When you’re joel (2)not doing “tree stuff” what do you enjoy doing?
Community. I enjoy anything involving community. I look for ways to come together with people. This is one of the main reasons I love being a Neighborhood Coordinator. It’s one of my favorite reasons why I love biking. How much more “community” can you get than when you pull up to an intersection on your bike and turn to the person next to you just to say “how’s it going, nice day for a bike ride, huh?” (Joel was also recently named the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Volunteer of the Year)

What do you like most about your neighborhood?
I’ve lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood for nearly three years, and appreciate just how dedicated and active our neighborhood is. The Brooklyn Action Corps is an example of a group who has a great impact on the neighborhoodFOT_25th anniversary-469od.

What is your favorite tree in your yard?
We’ve got 4 Japanese Snowbell street trees that we planted not too long ago. I make sure to water them 10-15 gallons a week; I’m diligent with my tree care. They’ve got the proudest berms on the block, and those berms also do a terrific job at directing water straight to the root zone! (Joel’s trademark is his berms / mulch rings around the trees he plants. He’s been known to bring extra sod to plantings to make sure his berms are wide and tall enough. He’s been nicknamed the “Berm Master.”)

Why do you like volunteering with Friends of Trees?
The people. It could be a planting, a volunteer appreciation event, or just swinging by the office; it all begins with showing up, everything falls into place from there. Some of my most favorite Saturday mornings have started with showing up for a tree planting. There is something inherently good about planting a tree in the ground and knowing it’ll foster so much life around it. It always makes me feel like I’ve done something good.