When the Eagle Creek Fire of 2017 burned over 50,000 acres of the Columbia River Gorge, Stand Together, the community outreach arm of the Portland Timbers and Thorns FC, mobilized the group’s most potent weapon: the club’s fanbase. With the proceeds from two scarves inspired by the Gorge, Stand Together was able to raise $103,718 to help the disaster’s relief efforts. The team’s fans responded to the call.
Two years later, those donations have evolved into a lasting effort, giving birth to a program that continues supporting the Gorge.
“The donation from the Timbers and Thorns helped fund the creation of our Public Land Stewardship program,” Kevin Gorman, Executive Director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, told Stand Together earlier this year. “In two short years, what began as a way to assist with fire recovery has become an established program supporting land managers throughout the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and making the Gorge a more resilient place for animals, plants, and humans.”
As is the case with the project’s COVID-19 response, part of Stand Together’s vision is to help a community in need, no matter when those needs arise. Its help with the Gorge, however, dovetails with goals that are more persistent. Whether it be during the projects of Stand Together Week or the group’s efforts over the rest of its calendar, the principles we celebrate on Earth Day drive Stand Together year round.
Eagle Creek was part of that ethos, but so is Stand Together’s Friends of Trees Partnership – a relationship that dates back to the Timbers’ first year in Major League Soccer. –RF
Friends of Trees: “Nearly 400 cars”
The Score a Goal, Plant a Tree partnership began in 2011 with a simple concept: For every goal the Timbers scored at home, a tree would be planted in Portland. Since, the initiative has been responsible for over 3,500 trees taking root, with the project growing beyond its initial goal-for-tree motive.
The environmental impact of that many trees can be difficult to imagine, though it’s easier to quantify. Based on their numbers and the time they’ve been in the ground, the new trees have been able to sequester nearly 1900 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to Stand Together. Put another way, the Score a Goal, Plant a Tree initiative is offsetting the annual pollution of roughly 400 cars.
“This is just one small example of our organization’s core commitment to community service,” Merritt Paulson, the Timbers’ owner, said when the partnership was announced. Into its 10th season, that commitment continues. –RF
Helping Thomas Cully Park reach reality
There are few signs that the space on Northeast 72nd Avenue, just north of Killingsworth, used to be a landfill. That was two decades ago. Before that, the location was used to mine sand and gravel. All traces of that have vanished, too. Instead, the 25-acre space in northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood features picnic areas, a fitness course, an overlook of the landscape of the city’s northeast quadrant, and a native gathering garden that had been proposed by the city’s Urban Indian community.
And, of course, there is a soccer field, apropos given the Timbers and Thorns’ involvement. In February of 2017, the team gave $65,000 to the Portland Parks Foundation to “help kick off a $500,000 campaign for private support to complete funding” for the project’s first phase, the Parks Foundation said. The City of Portland had originally acquired the site in 2000 but, as of 2008, lacked the funds to complete its renovation. In 2012, Portland partnered with Verde to raise funds for Thomas Cully Park, with the new site eventually opened to the public later in 2017.
“With this award, the Timbers and Thorns FC make a powerful investment in a community-based, community-led park project,” Verde’s executive director, Alan Hopiólito said at the time, with Parks Foundation board chair Gina Eiben adding, “We are grateful for the Portland Timbers' and Thorns' timely support.” –RF
Adding solar to Hosford Middle School
Portland has long held itself as a beacon of environmental stewardship. And in 2013, MLS engaged fans across the league to ask the question in a special, fan-led contest of "How Green Are Your Goals?"
Portland fans turned out in the vote which awarded a $10,000 grant from MLS Works alongside support from Stand Together to transform Hosford Middle School with BEF solar panel installation, a new student-designed mural, new bike racks, new drinking fountains and a tree planting project across school grounds.
When Timbers players and staff came out to help with the tree plantings midfielder Jack Jewsbury believed in the impact the project was making for both the environment and education.
"I think it's great, not just in saving energy, but also for some of the stuff kids can learn in the classroom," he reflected then. "It's great for us to be a part of this as an organization." –BC
Across every 12 months, most of the club’s contributions are smaller, from the trail maintenance done on a Stand Together Week project to the single tree that gets planted after each Diego Valeri goal. Across 10 seasons, though, some contributions have had a bigger scope. In the spirit of Earth Day, thought, each has had a similar goal: Preserving and promoting our most valuable resource.