A forest grows for moms, loved ones
Original story from the Oregonian, April 21, 2015
“Look I found a worm!”
Four-year-old Juniper happily displays a wriggling worm in her palm. Nearby her mom, Jenine Dankovchik, digs a hole between two fallen logs. Together mother and daughter remove a young tree from a pot and place it in the hole, covering the roots with soil.
“We’re planting in honor of my mom, who died about a year ago. My coworker generously got us this,” Dankovchik says of the sapling.
In time the tree will grow tall and join the surrounding giants at the Collins Sanctuary adjacent to Forest Park.
On this sunny spring morning, about 100 other people, young and old, are scattered in the forest planting trees in their loved ones names–for birthdays, holidays, memorials or just because.
The planting is organized twice a year by Friends of Trees as a way to celebrate life events while restoring the 86-acre sanctuary, which is owned by Metro and maintained by the Audubon Society of Portland.
To date, more than 6,100 native trees and shrubs have been planted through the Gift Tree program.
Dankovchik has also come with her husband, Josh, and son Calvin, 2. Together they write a note to grandma on white tape and tie it around the tree.
Dankovchik pulls out her phone to take GPS coordinates so she can come back and find the tree as it grows.
Up the hill, Andrea Geiger finds a new home for a native shrub in the ground with her daughter, Fiona, 8. Geiger has been volunteering with Friends of Trees for four years, and usually brings Fiona.
Together they guide small groups in how to properly plant trees: release pot-bound roots, dig the right sized hole and don’t plant too deep.
“This is the one planting I always come to,” Geiger says. “I really cherish being able to be here.”
Geiger has witnessed many touching moments at the Gift Tree plantings, including trees honoring new babies, friendships, mothers, fathers–even pets.
Last year, they planted a Yew tree for Geiger’s mother, a breast cancer survivor.
“I got to say ‘this Yew’s for you,’ ” she says.
But the real reward for Geiger is seeing the forest change after only a few years.
“I can see a huge difference from the first time I came out to this planting,” Geiger says. “It’s really starting to look like it’s recovering.”