Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Join the Club – Tree Planting Team Leader Training

If you have ever been to a Casey Trees planting event (or even if you haven’t!) you will notice groups of volunteers surrounding their tree and helping plant it. While most volunteers have on yellow vests, some have red vests on. Why? They’re Team Leaders! We’re having a special planting and training for a new crop of Team Leaders for this upcoming season – join us October 4 and 7 for this special training! We need you to help take a lead while we plant trees – sign up for Tree Planting Team Leader Training today!

We could not have planted 715 trees across 24 locations with our Team Leaders! They play a vital role in our community tree planting program. Team Leaders lead teams of 3-5 volunteers at our plantings and are responsible for: (1) Safety of the team, (2) Using effective tree planting strategies, of course, (3) Ensuring that your team is having a great time!

Debating starting the journey to earning your red vest and leading team? Hear from one of the pros – Heidi Burns. A veteran of over 20 Community Tree Plantings, Trees 101, Trees 201, Stand Up for Trees,  and a member of our Pruning Corps, Heidi has certainly seen it all.

Casey Trees (CT): How did you get involved with Casey Trees?
Heidi Burns (HB):  I think I first learned about Casey Trees from the fun folks working the information table at the Crafty Bastards fair several years ago. I held on to the information until a Trees 101 class came up and from that point on I was hooked. I think I might be a Casey Trees groupie.

CT: Why did you decide to become a Team Leader?
HB: After a few classes, I wanted to sign up for the plantings, but the volunteer spots were always full! So my very first tree planting was as part of the Team Leader training. It was freezing, pouring rain and we were knee deep in mud. It was awesome.

Heidi, in the telltale red Team Leader vest, leading a Team Leader in training during the spring Tree Planting Team Leader training.

CT: What is the best/your favorite part of planting a tree?
HB: Even on tough days, planting a tree is just fun. But if I have to choose one favorite aspect of planting a tree as a Team Leader, it is getting to work with the different volunteers. I’ve planted with chemists, construction workers, veterans, retired environmental activists and 7 year olds–sometimes groups of people who came together, but just as often we are all meeting for the first time around the tool circle. Everyone has their own reason for joining the team–but by the time the mulch is down and the stakes are in place we have that tree in common.

CT: Do you recall your most memorable tree planting experience?
HB: The ones with challenging weather (snow! torrential rain!) stand out, but getting to lead a team at Gallaudet University, where I work, was really special. Bringing together two things that I love (planting trees and American Sign Language) made the day particularly memorable–and I get to pass the trees we planted every day (they are doing great).

CT:  What would you tell someone who is on the fence about volunteering with Casey Trees or becoming a team leader? Any advice?
HB: Do it! It is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday and I’ve seen parts of D.C. I would never know existed otherwise. The training is great, the people are fun to work with and even if you don’t go on to lead tree planting teams every single weekend, you’ll be able to use your tree knowledge to win friends and influence people.  

Heidi, front and center, rocking something other than a red vest!

CT:  What compels you to volunteer season after season?
HB:  I really am a giant tree nerd. What I wasn’t expecting that also keeps me coming back is how much I enjoy hanging out with the other team leaders. Who are also giant tree nerds.

CT: Last but not least, do you have a favorite tree?
HB: I do–the lovely sweet gum. The fall colors are just spectacular. Plus, fun tip, the spiky seed balls will keep snails and slugs from destroying your plants. I’ve heard you can also throw the seed balls at people but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

We’re glad Heidi is a Casey Trees “groupie” and a fellow giant tree nerd! Don’t forget to sign up for Tree Planting Team Leader Training in October here. See you in October and throughout the season!

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