New Trees in Gifford Help Rebuild Community

Ann-Marie Stimphson and Wes Kocher of Champaign plant a tree on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in Gifford, Ill.

Ann-Marie Stimphson and Wes Kocher of Champaign plant a tree on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in Gifford, Ill.

(Sean Powers/WILL)

If you travel to the Champaign County town of Gifford, you will still find destroyed homes and trees snapped like twigs by a tornado last November. After a long, bitter winter, people are working to put the community back together.

On Saturday, more than 150 volunteers showed up in Gifford to plant trees. The Champaign County Farm Bureau said there were more than 200 saplings planted. Josh Green, who lives south of Fisher, raked mulch near one of them.

“You always think about getting the house back, but part of having a homestead is having shade and trees and places to play in your backyard,” Green said.

According to the Champaign County Farm Bureau, about a hundred more trees will be planted in the fall. 

“Trees are important not only for the environment, but it also helps recreate some of the memories that people may have had of where that tire swing was hanging,” said Farm Bureau Manager Brad Uken. “Those trees are gone. Or when people sat down and cooled down in a hot summer day underneath a shade tree with some lemonade. Those trees are gone. So, we’re trying to help rebuild some memories and help the environment out.”

Nearly five months after the tornado ripped through Gifford, the rebuilding process is starting to pick up. Len Sutherlin owns an ice cream shop in town, but he had to re-locate to St. Joseph after his home was destroyed by the storm. He is planning to move back to Gifford later this year.

“I know the other day when I came in it was a nice day, probably 55, 60 degrees outside,” Sutherlin said. “All I could hear were hammers, which really was great. You know sounded good. Things were being re-built. Things were being fixed, and that’s always nice to hear.”

Meanwhile, the Red Cross will be stationed at United Methodist Church in Gifford all this week, working with residents in need of assistance that is not covered by insurance.

Story source: WILL