Portland, OR. Despite shelter-in-place, Friends of Trees (FOT) managed to finish its planting season in neighborhoods and urban green spaces in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Staffers like Tyler Rise (pictured above) are keeping things moving, but o
perations are quite different than usual because the typical neighborhood volunteers are not allowed to work.  

A pod from the Northwest Youth Corp, a roving group that does summer maintenance, helped plant trees in Forest Park. The planting season lasts from November to April, so thankfully the COVID-19 pandemic did not hit until near the end of the season.

Friends of Trees relied heavily on staff and trained crew-lead volunteers to finish projects by themselves. Trained individuals are continuing typical summer operations by surveying trees that were planted earlier in the year. These volunteers mulch and prune the trees as needed.

Friends of Trees’ impact in 2019

The benefits of trees

Future operations will look much different than normal. Interim Executive Director Whitney Dorer predicts that more plantings with fewer people will take place in order to prevent larger groups from congregating. The attendance of past planting events has reached over 250 people. Unfortunately, the traditional post-planting potlucks will be put on hold. Friends of Trees focuses not just on the environment but also on the community. 

“It will take a lot of creativity on the part of our team of our supports and volunteers to find new ways to engage community while we are still planting trees throughout the city and in natural areas,” said Dorer. “We are just going to have to work with whatever is given in terms of social distancing guidelines.” 

A volunteer shows her love for nature during a winter planting session pre-COVID

Friends of Trees is remaining active on social media. Short, educational videos on different trees have been put together by various FOT staff. In the spirit of community, every Thursday, a staff member is introduced on the FOT Instagram. Introductions include name, pronouns, position, favorite tree(s), favorite potluck food, and hobbies. Corporate and Business Relations Specialist Sam Erman even included his favorite hummus recipe. 

In this time of isolation, Friends of Trees recognizes the growing importance of community building while remaining safe.  

From Friends of Trees:
We bring people together. Inspiring our community members to plant, care for, and learn about trees is key to our mission. We welcome individuals, families, and businesses throughout western Oregon and SW Washington to help restore and beautify our region. Friends of Trees recognizes that not everyone has equal access to the benefits of trees. As we work to remedy that, we strive to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, regardless of age, ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, or economic status. Without our volunteers, we are nothing. But together, we do amazing things.