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Columbus Volunteers Are Replanting Tornado-Damaged Trees In Old North Dayton

A man in a blue jacket and hat kneels on the grass and cuts open a bag holding the roots of a new tree. A standing woman wearing a jacket and hat bends over to help him.
Kristin Stratman
Two United Methodist Disaster Team volunteers prep a tree for planting outside Walter Kley's home. The volunteers have been planting two types of Ohio native trees in the Old North Dayton area since the 2019 tornados.

Members of the United Methodist Disaster Team have been driving from Columbus to Old North Dayton almost every month since the Memorial Day Tornadoes in 2019. They’ve been cleaning up and rebuilding areas that were hit the hardest.

On the weekend of April 17, over a dozen volunteers met up in the Old North Dayton neighborhood to help replant some trees that were uprooted by the storms.

A portrait of Walter Kley, a White man with white hair and beard. He's wearing a red plaid shirt.
Kristin Stratman
Five trees on Walter Kley's property fell during the 2019 tornado. United Methodist Disaster Team volunteers visited his home on the weekend of April 17 to help replant those trees.

Walter Kley has lived in his Old North Dayton home with his wife for fifty-seven years. He said one of the tornadoes leveled a line of old trees that stood between his backyard and the road.

“That big tree on the corner, that big oak tree, that big around, (the tornado) just laid it over," Kley said. "And it took four other ones down. It took all the trees down back there. Wouldn’t have been for them it would have totaled our house.”

Matt Tepper is the president of the Old North Dayton neighborhood association. He said some trees fell right across the fence in Kley’s backyard. This made cleanup difficult.

“What ended up happening was the private crew was just cutting it apart and then throwing the pieces across the fence," Tepper said. "It was real good teamwork ‘cause you have those lines, they can’t walk on private property and they figured out how to do it.”

United Methodist Disaster Team volunteers dig a hole together for a new tree.
Kristin Stratman
United Methodist Disaster Team volunteers dig a hole together for a new tree. Volunteers from the Columbus area have traveled to replant trees in Dayton nearly every month.

Vicki Nichols, a volunteer with the disaster team, was digging a hole for a tree. She said she’s grateful for the opportunity to help people in need.

“We’re all blessed to be able to do this," Nichols said. "We’re retired or we’ve got enough time or we have resources but a lot of people don’t.”

The volunteers have already planted dozens of young trees around the neighborhood. That weekend, they planted a row of American Hornbeam and Tupelo trees where the old ones fell behind Walter Kley’s house.

In the fall, the leaves will turn a vibrant red.