“Too low won’t grow; too high never die.”
TreeFolks’ Super Volunteers taught me to pay attention to the level of the root flare when planting trees. They taught me to be merciless and use knives or clippers if necessary when breaking up a root ball, otherwise the roots stay tightly tangled and the tree will never thrive. More importantly, they welcomed and encouraged me at TreeFolks events.
TreeFolks hosts volunteer tree plantings throughout Austin and Central Texas. Being a lean non-profit, TreeFolks relies on the Supers (volunteer planting supervisors) to help train and manage the thousands of volunteers who plant over 10,000 trees with TreeFolks annually. Many Supers have been volunteering with TreeFolks for years, even decades. Super Mike Valescu is in his seventies and attended every single planting event last year! (except for one because he was leading volunteers at an It’s My Park Day event). The Supers have enabled TreeFolks incredible success—planting over 3 million trees in the last 30 years!
After years of being an occasional volunteer at TreeFolks tree plantings, I decided I wanted to be a Super too. I wanted to be part of scaling up TreeFolks’ tree planting capabilities. Twice a year, TreeFolks offers a Super training at their lovely headquarters on Platt Lane. At the training, there was a diverse group of folks all wanting to get more involved, just like me. Many of the long-time Supers also showed up to help lead the training or just for fun. We covered planting saplings and container trees, safety, and volunteer management. My favorite part was when we went around and learned a little about each of us. We were from all walks of life, but united in the passion to bring more trees to Central Texas.
Newly trained Supers shadow a veteran Super for as long as they like, until they are comfortable to lead their own group of volunteers. Once you get to that point, you finally earn the coveted red TreeFolks’ “Supervisor” shirt. I’m getting mine this summer and I can’t wait to lead volunteers in tree planting starting in October!
I’m proud to be a Super because I am part of an amazing community of dedicated long-term volunteers that are vital to TreeFolks. Supers advise TreeFolks on improvements to the program. Supers show up to the tree plantings even in the icy rain and stay until the last tree is planted. They teach volunteers of all ages and interest levels about trees and our ecosystem. Supers are the very foundation of TreeFolks, and I look forward to being part of it!
If you’ve already volunteered with TreeFolks at least once, and want learn more about our Super Volunteer program, please email Gillian Hodler
Katharine Beisner, TreeFolks Board Member, wrote this article. Katharine first volunteered with TreeFolks in 1998. She loves supporting TreeFolks in building our native tree canopy to cool our city and provide a habitat for wildlife.