April 24, 2017 /
Jona Elwell

National Volunteer Week: It Takes a Village

We let you know it was coming, and now it’s finally here – National Volunteer Week! We’ll be highlighting the great work our volunteers do all week long on social media – including how many trees you’ve planted in 2016! – but we had to ask some of our rock star volunteers why they have committed so much to Casey Trees and our efforts to re-tree D.C.

So who exactly did we chat with? Alvin Figer has been a Team Leader at community tree plantings and is now a registration volunteer helping everyone get prepped. A longtime supporter of Casey Trees – she interned with us after moving to D.C. – Maki Tazawa has almost done it all. A recent addition to the Casey Trees family, Kristen Bonner dove right in and is now a Team Leader! And finally, we asked Brian Watts, a recent Citizen Forester turned Team Leader for his thoughts.

 Casey Trees: How did you get involved with Casey Tees?
Alvin Figer:
In 2014, I did my first tree planting at Wilson High School. I was looking online for volunteer opportunities that aligned with my passion to help the environment. I did a Google Search and came across Casey Trees. I emailed the contact online and got a response right away from Erica Young and that is how it all began.

Kristin Bonner: I receive volunteer emails at my job and Casey Trees was listed. I’ve always liked working outdoors so figured I would give tree planting a shot.

Maki Tazawa: Casey Trees was the first internship I ever had when I moved to D.C. for college in 2010 and joined as the Education Intern!

Brian Watts: I wrote a research paper on urban forestry in graduate school and once I moved to Washington, D.C., I knew I had to get involved!

CT:  Why do you think planting, advocating for, and caring for trees in D.C. is so important?
Trees are essential in our environment and we need to share the land with these magnificent entities. They need us to advocate for more shared spaces because otherwise they would be forgotten.

KB: Without trees we wouldn’t be able to sustain life, and they are so important for the health of our city and our climate. I think it’s important to give back in any way that we can, and to adopt and support sustainable habits so we can leave the Earth a little better than we found it.

MT: D.C. is a beautiful city that has the opportunity to improve upon its history, communities and natural areas by planting more trees and reaching the canopy goal and beyond. With all of the benefits that trees have for both people and the local environment, and the socioeconomic advantages this provides to communities and the city at-large makes planting trees one of the cheapest ways to improve our city.

BW: Generally speaking, trees are amazing and the benefits they give are quite often overlooked. In the city, planting, advocating, and caring for trees gives us another way to connect to nature and helps to express the importance of nature to our friends, family, and strangers alike.

CT: What is the best part of planting a tree?
AF: Having a 3 year old at home, I love being able to tell him that I planted a tree when he was born to symbolize how much I love him and trees. He can see how much the trees I have planted grew as he grows into a young man.

KB: Digging the hole is always a fun chore, but my favorite is when the tree is in the ground and the group is able to take a step back and admire the hard work they just accomplished.

MT: I’m not going to lie and say the pizza for lunch isn’t a huge part of my personal joy in the community tree plantings, but the best part of planting a tree in general is that there isn’t just one impact that tree will have. You know that day after day that tree is going to bring someone joy from its beauty, cool them off with its shade, will help with stormwater runoff in the city, support the habitat for cute little critters, or myriad other benefits it will provide for people and the environment alike.

BW: Coffee! But seriously, meeting new people who enjoy volunteering. It’s also so much fun to meet people who have never planted a tree and see how rewarding it is to do so!

MT: You can volunteer in whatever way and however much you want: you can volunteer once a year with your friends at a community tree planting, you can take a Trees 101 class alone for your own knowledge expansion with no pressure, you can sign up to be an outreach volunteer for a whole season and not have to pick up a single shovel. Casey Trees doesn’t ask for any time commitments like some other volunteer organizations and most of the events don’t need any prior training.

CT:  What would you tell someone who is on the fence about volunteering with Casey Trees? Any advice?
I would tell them you do not need to have any experience at all with planting or if you think you do not have a “green thumb.”  With the assistance of great volunteer team leaders and with the experience Casey tree facilitators have, you do not need to worry.  I would also mention the great food and it is a great opportunity to work together with any club, church, school, etc.

KB: Go do it! Its great exercise and for a great cause! Volunteering with CT will also teach you how a tree is supposed to be properly planted and there’s something new to learn at every planting.

BW: Hop that fence! There are plenty of Saturdays to come, take the time to give back and you won’t regret it. It’s wonderful to get out early, do something for the greater good, and then enjoy the rest of your Saturday.

CT: What compels you to volunteer season after season?
AF: Knowing that I am helping the environment and that my family has something to inherit and enjoy in the future.

KB: It’s just fun and a great way to meet new people. I also love going to the different parts of D.C. where the tree plantings occur, which connects me more with the city.

MT: This is an important mission that is critical to bettering sustainability and community issues in the district, and it is a lovely and fun community to be a part of. Personally, it’s a simple and fun way to contribute to something I connect with (community tree plantings being my favorite way to spend a Saturday) and it brings a great deal of joy to me to walk around the city, see Casey Trees water bags on trees and know that I’m part of this effort.

BW: The growing need for afforestation in urban areas and the community building that planting trees fosters.

CT:  Last but not least, do you have a favorite tree?
AF: All native trees are my favorite!

KB: I don’t see them too much (or ever here), but in Florida we have live oak trees that are absolutely stunning. They add a certain aged/majestic characteristic wherever I have seen them. By far my favorite tree.

MT: Eastern Redbud if I have to pick just one local one!

BW: The Sycamore – Platanus occidentalis.

We’re a lucky organization to work with talented and all around awesome volunteers. Check out our volunteer opportunities to get involved and stay tuned for the rest of our National Volunteer Week coverage!