- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

GIFFORD, Ill. (AP) - Gifford lost dozens of homes to a tornado last November but the small east-central Illinois town also lost a lot of trees.

Volunteers plan to replace more than 200 of them this weekend in a mass tree planting, provided the weather allows.

Heavy rain is in the forecast between now and then, but only a very heavy dose of water will get in the way, volunteer Bob Uken of the Champaign County Farm Bureau said.

“We talked about it and said this project is a go for Saturday morning unless we’ve got standing water in town,” he said. “But if it’s raining a little bit on Saturday, we’re going to do it. If it’s muddy, you’d just better not wear your best pair of shoes or your best blue jeans.”

Gifford was hit by one of the two-dozen tornadoes that touched down across Illinois on Nov. 17. The town of 975 people is about 20 miles northeast of Champaign.

People in town have talked about being fortunate that it wasn’t worse. While some other towns struck that day had residents killed, Gifford didn’t.

But the rubble of homes scattered around town and damage to key infrastructure such as the local water tower was strong evidence that the town had been hit hard.

Property owners who had damage can have trees planted. There are more than $30,000 worth of trees being delivered, paid for by The Farm Bureau and Rotary Clubs.

About 125 volunteers are lined up, many from Rotary Clubs and other organizations, Uken said.

On Saturday they’ll be broken up into crews to take on duties such as digging holes for planting, placing and planting trees or mulching them.

“I’m super confident that we’re going to walk out of Gifford on Saturday night and there’s going to be 200-some trees planted, and it’s going to be a step in the right direction for that community and the individuals,” Uken said.


Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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