Stewardship, Education and Volunteering in an Uncertain Year

Throughout 2020, our Community Programs team was tasked with adapting many of our programs and events to follow ever-evolving public health guidelines. Despite the many changes, we were able to continue to engage volunteers and community members with fun and informative programs aimed at protecting and enhancing the urban forest. Here are some of the year’s accomplishments.


Virtual Programs

We adapted many of our programs to be physically-distanced by moving them to online platforms. While there was a lot to learn to master the technology, offering our programs and events virtually allowed us to be safe, while also engaging more people.

Volunteer Orientations

We hosted six volunteer orientations, with the majority of them being offered virtually. We were thrilled to welcome over 260 new volunteers into our LEAF community.

Stewardship Coordinator, Brian Millward, preparing for a virtual volunteer orientation.

Outreach Team

As of mid-March, our Outreach Team was not able to attend events in person, so we launched a Social Media Outreach Team. They promoted LEAF programs by sharing our social media content. Throughout the year, they were able to reach over 600 people while advocating for the urban forest.

Tree Tours

We hosted two virtual tours that focused on the tree species found in Wychwood Barns Park in Toronto and Lake Wilcox Park in Richmond Hill. Over 200 participants joined the events and developed a deeper appreciation for the trees in their community while staying safe at home.

Tree Tenders Volunteer Training

This program teaches participants about tree biology, identification and conservation from industry experts. We offered two sessions this year and doing so virtually allowed us to increase the number of participants. In 2020, 94 people graduated from the program! We are excited to offer this program again in 2021.

Young Urban Forest Leaders

This program is offered to youth between 18 – 29 years old and provides training and mentorship in arboriculture, urban forestry and community engagement. As part of their training, our 18 graduates also hosted a four-part webinar series, promoting native planting in their communities, which had over 330 attendees! Their efforts led to the distribution and planting of 300 native shrubs throughout Toronto.

Our 2020 YUFL cohort meeting virtually for their first workshop.


In-person Programs

When programs required meeting in person, we continued to adapt by working with small groups of volunteers and following public health guidelines. We are very proud of the work we were able to accomplish while maintaining everyone’s safety. 

Community Planting Events

In October, we planted over 1,600 native trees and shrubs in Richmond Hill through seven naturalization events open to LEAF staff and volunteers. Read our four-part blog series to learn more about the impact our planting events have on local biodiversity.

LEAF staff celebrating after a successful day of planting at Elgin West Channel Lands in Richmond Hill.

Garden Stewards

Our Garden Steward teams continued to care for our Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens in Toronto, contributing over 400 hours of their time to caring for native plant species in the city. We also had a mural installed on the Bell box next to our garden at the TTC St. Clair subway station. The artwork completed by Nick Sweetman showcases the impact green spaces have on supporting local pollinator species and biodiversity.

Mural installed by Nick Sweetman on the Bell box near our St. Clair Garden highlighting local biodiversity and pollinator populations.

Toronto Community Housing Planting and Stewardship Initiative

We were able to continue our work with Toronto Community Housing (TCH) by planting 48 native trees and distributing over 240 native shrubs. Ten Tree Care Teams were formed with dedicated residents. These teams provided stewardship to the 130 trees that had been planted on TCH properties in previous years as part of this initiative. We are very proud of this work because it is so essential for promoting community engagement and decreasing the disparity in canopy cover across Toronto. Read more about our work with TCH.


In total, our volunteers donated over 3,200 hours of their time to LEAF programs last year! We are so grateful for their support and dedication, especially considering all the challenges of 2020. Their time and effort made all of the difference in helping to continue to work toward a greener and happier future!

This year, we are looking forward to continuing to offer our virtual programs and our naturalization planting efforts in York and Durham Region. Visit our Volunteer page to find out more about volunteering with us.

For more information on the work that LEAF did in 2020, please read our Annual Report.


Brian Millward is the Stewardship Coordinator at LEAF.


Our Volunteer Outreach Team is supported by Ontario Power Generation, the City of Toronto and the Regional Municipality of York

Our community planting and stewardship events are supported by Ontario Power Generation, the Regional Municipality of York, the City of Richmond Hill and Grandtrees Climate Solutions.

The TCH Planting and Stewardship Initiative is funded in part by the City of Toronto's Urban Forestry Grant and supported by Toronto Community Housing.

The LEAF Urban Forest Demonstration Gardens are supported by Ontario Power Generation and the Toronto Transit Commission.