Tornado Striking Close to Home in Taylorville, Illinois


UPDATE: Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the community coming together, we were able to help out with a great planting in Taylorville on November 2, 2019. The Trees Forever donors came together and raised $5,160 (including the matched dollars from the Granting A Better Tomorrow Fund) to rebuild the tree canopy in Taylorvillville. In November, Trees Forever, Taylorville Tree Recovery Team and volunteers planted 100 trees.


ORIGINAL STORY: Trees Forever will match up to $1,500 in donations to plant trees in the Taylorville area. Your donation to this fund will only be used to buy tree materials for Taylorville, Illinois. Our match dollars will be coming from Trees Forever’s Granting A Better Tomorrow Endowment Fund.


In December 2018, a tornado struck Taylorville, Illinois, injuring more than two dozen people and damaging hundreds of buildings and trees. Retired Trees Forever Field Coordinator Barb Grabner-Kerns lives in town and was fortunate that the disaster bypassed her, her home and her trees, but after working with Trees Forever’s Recover, Replant, Restore! program, she knows that recovery is a long process.

“It’s easy to get anxious and want to get trees in the ground immediately, but we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Grabner-Kerns said. “Fortunately, because Trees Forever has hosted many workshops and classes in the town and surrounding areas we have trained volunteers who are great advocates for trees.”
Now that Taylorville needs help more than ever, Trees Forever is working to make sure they get the help they need.

In February 2018, the Illinois Urban Strike Team (UFST) assessed the trees damaged. Through this partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Trees Forever's Recover, Replant, Restore! program, a group of trained arborists volunteered their time to inspect the tree damage—a first and very necessary step on the road to recovery. The arborists worked through cold winter weather to assess the tornado’s tree victims.

“Once we have a good inventory of what healthy trees will survive, we can start helping the city implement a plan to replant,” Trees Forever Illinois Field Coordinator Kevin Bennett said. 

“Urban forests continue beyond the borders of a community, and what impacts one community, impacts all by area or region,” Illinois Department of Natural Resources interim Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator, Jim Tresouthick explained.  “Mutual aid, in the wake of a natural disaster, is essential for protecting the resource of its trees, which helps the impacted to recover more quickly, and with less heartache.” 

“Response to natural disaster is everyone’s responsibility.  If you are able, you should assist.  My abilities as an arborist are what are needed for the Strike Team Task Force, and just as I would fill sandbags to address a rising flood I participate in the Strike Team to help it it’s specific way.”

Strike Team volunteer Jerome Scott (with the Chicago Park district) said. “To think that a 150+ year old oak tree may be spared the ax because of the Strike Team, really means a lot to me.”

“Volunteering is very important and gratifying to me, but working with the Strike Team is especially important,” Strike Team Leader Paul D’Agostino said. “Not only do I get to use my professional skills to assess trees, but I also get to help communities and their residents keep as much of their existing urban forest as possible and prioritize their tree work going forward to stay safe.”

A community of tree advocates came together to show their dedication and establish the Taylorville Tree Recovery Team.  Trees Forever is working with local partners, including the city tree board and the University of Illinois Extension to hold tree care workshops for residents to help them monitor their trees. The Taylorville Tree Recovery Team also wants to make sure recovery efforts include planting diverse tree species and that the young trees receive proper care so they grow to become strong storm- and disease-resistant trees providing many benefits to the community.

We’ll also assist in fundraising efforts, so homeowners can have trees in their backyards again. 

“As the spring unfolds, the green leaves come back and the birds sing a little bit louder, Taylorville residents are going to be missing the trees that were lost,” Trees Forever Communications and Marketing Manager Jackie Wedeking said. “We know Trees Forever members will pull together to help replant this community forest.”

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