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.
- 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!