Moore Monthly
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Sarah Jensen
Sarah Jensen

RETREET Plants 162 Trees Across Community

Apr 07, 2015

MOORE, Okla.- RETREET came to Moore with a mission of renewal planting 162 trees in the areas hardest hit by the May 20, 2013 tornado.

"It means so much to us," said tornado victim Sue Zimmerman. 

Sue Zimmerman and her husband lost their home on May 20, 2013. In fact, it was a last second thought to put on their motorcycle helmets that saved their lives. The two would have to be dug out of the rubble and debris that was once their home. However, longtime residents of Moore, they never thought of leaving. They chose to rebuild. Today their home is complete, but there is still much to do to make their outdoor living spaces what they once were. 

"We are back here with our house, and now we are rebuilding the yard," said Zimmerman. "We are trying to get out trees back in the yard."

For the Zimmermans, their backyard was the place that they spent their evenings and fourth of Julys, a favorite place for relaxation with family and friends taken by the storm. 

"We had some big, beautiful trees before the tornado and of course they are gone," said Zimmerman. 

But that all changed when eight volunteers planted two new trees in their backyard, all part of a mission of renewal by a Texas-based organization known as RETREET.

“It just is not something that people think about," said RETREET Executive Director Grady McGahan. "When you explain to somebody that this person has lost everything there are systems in place to help them rebuild their home, replace their cars and lost things. But no body is here replanting the trees and the reality is it is the trees that are going to take the longest to replace.”

In total more than 70 volunteers from all over Texas and Oklahoma came together, planting two trees at about 80 homes impacted by the May 20, 2013 tornado, while also replacing trees lost in Veterans Memorial Park. 

“I think it is just what Oklahoma is all about," said volunteer Caroline Wigman. "We are about helping our neighbors and really just being there for each other when we have something trying whether it is a large event that affects the whole community or whether it is a home fire. For all Oklahomans, it is just important to be there for other Okies.”

And the mission of RETREET aligns perfectly with one of its local partners Serve Moore who coordinated local volunteers as yet another step towards its goal of longterm renewal. 

“It was good work and it felt good to know that we were properly planting a tree that will be here for about 150 years,” said Serve Moore's Chris Fox. 

A labor of renewal for a resilient community who stands strong and appreciative for the support it continues to receive. 

"Overwhelming, all the help that we have received through this tornado, and to come back to the point that we are at has really been overwhelming," said Zimmerman. "We are very joyous."

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