Goshen, Boys & Girls Club plant a tree

May 9—GOSHEN — Boys and Girls Club organizations across Indiana rallied together on Thursday for a statewide day of service to honor and recognize Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

Clubs across Indiana planted trees throughout the day, in addition to other activities to celebrate and explore mental health and service.

Goshen city staff joined students and staff at Goshen's club, donating an oak tree to the cause, and helping plant it in front of the club.

"(Trees) anchor our environment, our ecosystem; obviously they produce oxygen but they also clean our air, they clean our water, they absorb lots of stormwater and keep us cool," said Goshen City Forester Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley." Our summers get warmer and warmer with climate change and this is an oak tree, which will become a large shade tree eventually. It'll take some time, but if we don't plant trees now, people in the future won't have a place to keep cool."

Sawatsky-Kingsley said the city has helped plant around half a dozen trees at the club over the years including a red oak that grew from an acorn that grew from the biggest tree at Walnut Park.

In addition to the tree planting, youth painted rocks with inspirational sayings or words like "kindness," "love," or "gratitude," on them, and teens at the club scattered them throughout the neighborhood.

"The hope that is others as they are walking will find them and they'll be inspired by those words," said Goshen Area Director Natalie Jerlecki

Younger children at the club who weren't old enough to paint rocks instead painted leaves with kind words on them to go on a tree along the back wall of the learning center.

Jerlecki said each of the parents at the club will also receive information about the rock project so they can do it with their children if they choose to as a form of engagement.

Other clubs throughout Elkhart County also planted a tree and held their own day of service activities for their club youth.

"One of the clubs is planting garden beds and making gardens," said President/CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Elkhart County Tami Hicks. "The whole idea is that we're giving back in some way, shape, and form."

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at dani.messick@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2065.