Hundreds of trees planted in East Winston
City-sponsored Community Roots Day is more popular than ever.
The annual tree planting program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, had a record turnout Saturday. Hundreds of volunteers gathered to hear from officials during a brief commemorative service at the Twin City Baseball Complex, before dispersing to plant trees all along the nearby New Walkertown Road and the Newell-Massey Greenway.
“Over 600 volunteers have come out to plant over 400 trees. It’s an amazing turnout,” commented Mayor Allen Joines, who presented a proclamation declaring Oct. 27 Community Roots Day in Winston-Salem. “I commend the commitment and leadership of Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful … and our citizens – particularly you – in their efforts to build a more healthy and beautiful home.”
To date, Roots Day volunteers have planted more than 9,000 trees across the community, according to George Stilphen, executive director of Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful, which partnered with the City and the Community Appearance Commission to create the project 20 years ago. Stilphen, who has led the organization for 12 years, said participating in Community Roots Day has become an annual tradition for many organizations, groups and individuals.
“It becomes a communal event. People love coming to see each other year to year and give back to the community,” Stliphen stated. “There are a lot of people that look forward to this event year after year.”
Planting trees fosters a variety of positive environmental and social results in a community, according to Stilphen. Trees have a cooling effect on the area, reduce erosion and create effective noise barriers. Studies have shown that planting trees in a community can also increase community pride, encourage homeownership and even help to lower crime rates, he said.
Each year, a different area of the city is selected for Community Roots Day and is transformed by the 400 to 500 trees volunteers plant over the course of several hours. On Saturday, a diverse group of volunteers planted nine different varieties of trees along New Walkertown Road and the Newell-Massey Greenway. The area is part of City Council Member Derwin Montgomery’s East Ward. He told the Roots Day volunteers that they play a valuable role in the community.
“When you think about a tree, the most important part of the tree is the roots,” said Montgomery. “I believe each one of you out here is one of the roots that makes this city sustainable and strong.”
Sixteen year-old Bryana Marsh and fellow members of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) student community service organization at Mount Tabor High School were among the hundreds of volunteers in attendance. The Crosby Scholar and aspiring neonatal nurse dreams of attending Wake Forest University.
“We did this last year,” Marsh, a junior, said of Roots Day. “At first, I thought it was going to be boring, but I actually enjoyed it. I never did (plant) trees before, so I thought that was kind of interesting.”
A contingent of Boy Scouts from St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church’s Troop 912 were also on hand Saturday morning, armed with shovels and orange safety vests and ready to get to work.
“It’s all about giving back to the community – we wanted the boys to engage in something that was positive,” said Assistant Scout Master Mike Adams . “…We want them to learn that, by engaging with people in the community, we can bring about positive change.”
Former City Council Member Joycelyn Johnson and her siblings, Deltra Bonner, Leo Johnson, and sister-in-law. Lisa Johnson, planted a crepe myrtle in memory of their mother, Dorothy Shuford Johnson, who passed away last month. Shuford Johnson, who lived in the area, had participated in past Roots Days. Even when she became too frail to plant the trees herself, Shuford Johnson always insisted that her children drive her by the site of the most recent Roots Day event so she could see the newly-planted trees. The family planted the tree right at the spot along New Walkertown Road where Shuford Johnson had escaped unharmed after being involved in a serious car accident years before.
“We wanted to be out here anyway, so it just made good sense to plant at this site,” Joycelyn Johnson explained. “It helps us get through the grieving process. It’s good therapy.”
Bonner said she thought their mother would be pleased with the tribute.
“She would be ecstatic,” Bonner declared. “She would’ve expected us to be out here. It’s like, ‘Why would you not?’”
Winston-Salem has received high praise for its commitment to green initiatives such as Community Roots Day. The North Carolina Forest Service’s Jennifer Rall presented two more accommodations, “Tree City USA” and “Tree City USA Growth Award” to Mayor Joines and City Council members during the celebration Saturday.
For more information about future Community Roots Days or other Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful events, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.cityofws.org” www.cityofws.org or call City Link, 727-8000.