The weather was great and the spirits were high for a record-breaking Trees for Tots event on Saturday.
“It’s a record-breaking year in all capacities,” said Emma Rogers, CEO of the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington.
“We couldn't’ have asked for a better day.”
Community members register trees to be collected by volunteers for a minimum of $10. Those trees are then chipped and put back into the community either on trails or other community projects.
In its ninth year, the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington event collected over 4,044 trees this year. The event had over 100 trucks on the road collecting trees, with a limit of one truck per household.
Last year, the event collected 3,514 trees.
All volunteers were in good spirits as they adhered to safety guidelines, wore masks and distanced themselves at all seven stations, which included Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School, Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School, St. James Catholic High School, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, the Ignatius Jesuit Centre and the Puslinch Municipal Yard.
The event was declared an essential service and so safety restrictions were heightened.
“There are a lot of restrictions in terms of how we run the event,” said Maria Fitzpatrick, admin program assistant at the Children’s Foundation of Guelph.
Usually, the Trees for Tots team gathers at College Heights Secondary School and provides lunches for their volunteers, but was unable to do so because of COVID restrictions.
Fitzpatrick said each site also had a restricted number of volunteers.
“We’ve also done the routing a little bit differently. We’re using an app so all the truck drivers are getting their routes electronically,” said Fitzpatrick adding that in the past, the drivers would receive paper maps.
“We’re doing as much contact-free here as possible.”
Rogers said it feels absolutely incredible to see how much the community stepped up to support the cause during a pandemic.
“This community rallies around the Children’s Foundation so much and we’re very fortunate that not only is the foundation, but also this event is considered an essential service,” said Rogers.
“So we’ve been working very closely with our partners in the city as well as Public Health to ensure the utmost safety for our staff, our volunteers for everyone.”
She said one of the most amazing parts of the event is its focus on sustainability and the environment.
“Every tree chipped will be put back into our local environment,” said Rogers.
“We work with partners such as St. Ignatius conservation authority to chip the trees so some of them will actually be on trails in the community as well as other communities as well.”
Joe Legate, owner of JL's Tree Service in Guelph, whose been volunteering with the event for six years, said he’s noticed a lot more people getting involved with the event this year which is likely because many people are at home and more in tune with what’s going on in their communities during the pandemic.
He said an increase in participation is the goal every year.
“For me, it’s an event where what you do goes right back into the community. That for me holds a lot of water,” said Legate who brought three trucks, two chipping stations and a lift for a flag.
“I like to help people in general but knowing that this goes right back to kids in our community is number one reason for us why we are doing this and will continue to do this for the duration of our time.”