Volunteers plant 'Gift Trees' to remember loved ones
Friends of Trees held a tree planting on March 17 at Happy Valley Park that showcased the Gift Tree program. More than 70 volunteers attended the event, planting an assortment of native trees and shrubs that are appropriate for the Happy Valley Park site, including grand fir, cascara and western hemlock.
Among the volunteers were 15 people who came to the park to plant trees in remembrance of loved ones.
"Purchasing a Gift Tree in memory or celebration of a loved one is such an incredible way to remember someone or show them that you care. It's an investment in the future of our forests," said Whitney Dorer, deputy director of Friends of Trees.
"The act of planting trees together at the event is very moving. There are tears of joy celebrating babies born into this world and tears of sadness remembering those we have lost," she said.
"The trees planted represent all of that, the cycle of life, and help us remember that the community is there to support," Dorer added.
She noted that Friends of Trees makes sure that Gift Trees are planted at public sites, so that families and individuals can return year after year.
"Happy Valley Park is just one of many sites where our Gift Trees thrive," Dorer said.
As the Gift Tree planting began, Logan Louvray, green space manager with Friends of Trees, asked the tree planters to form a circle, introduce themselves and tell a bit about the loved ones being honored.
Calling the section of the park where the Gift Trees would be planted "a place of celebration and remembrance," Louvray read an inspirational poem by Wendell Berry and then called for a moment of silence.
Afterward, volunteers Christine Johnson and Tierney Allerman-Morris demonstrated how to plant the trees. They gave everyone strips of white biodegradable tape on which to write the names of the loved ones, and the tapes were then tied around the newly planted trees.
Portland residents Jill Konig and her two brothers, Mark and Todd Thompson, planted a tree honoring their mother. Konig's students at Bridlemile Elementary school presented her with the Gift Tree.
"This tree will go on living, and another generation can come here and say this tree is for grandma," she said.
"It's good closure," Todd Thompson said, adding that his mother loved trees so much that she used to come and wake him up early just so they could look at the Christmas tree together.
Kathy Peterman was given a grove of trees by the Airbnb community to honor her mother Patricia Peterman.
"Most commonly, people give flowers, but the last thing I need is another thing to take care of," Peterman said.
Plus, a tree "lives on and helps the environment, and it's nice that I can come here in the future and think of mom."
This newspaper editor's family attended the event to plant trees in honor of Selma Feldstein, Jed and Raymond Rendleman's grandmother, and Margaret Mehl, sister of their father, Neal Rendleman. Both women died this past winter.
The memory trees are "an awesome way to commemorate a life," Jed Rendleman said.
The best thing about the Gift Tree program, Neal Rendleman said, is community involvement.
He added, "The tree will last a lot longer than any of us will."
Gift Tree program
Portland-based Friends of Trees has been in existence for 29 years and the Gift Tree program for 15.
"We have planted over 700,000 trees and native shrubs in those 29 years. I would guess that Gift Trees has planted closer to 30,000 over those years," Dorer said.
The best thing about the program is that people can easily give a tree to anyone, just by visiting the Friends of Trees website and scrolling down to Gift Trees.
"I find these are the best gifts for those who don't need another trinket. I have given trees to my parents for the holidays. It is my way of saying thank you for teaching me how important our environment and our community is," Dorer said.
"The memories made at these plantings are so special; they have stayed with me for years and years."
Plant it forward
To purchase a gift tree, visit friendsoftrees.org and click on Give a Tree.