Albert Lea Noon Lions Club donates shade trees to local third-grade students

Published 7:54 pm Monday, April 29, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Members of the Albert Lea Noon Lions Club on Monday visited Albert Lea elementary schools to donate shade tree saplings to third-grade students. It was a day filled with happy faces of students, teachers and Lions Club members alike.

Among the varieties of trees distributed were sugar maple, oak and birch.

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The Arbor Day program, as the event was called, was put on by the Albert Lea Noon Lions Club, the city of Albert Lea and the Freeborn County Soil and Water Conservation District. Other sponsors for the event included the Arbor Day Foundation, Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative, Albert Lea Area Schools and Church Offset Printing. 

In addition to donating to the four elementary schools in the Albert Lea School District, the Lions Club also donated trees to a few area private schools and some homeschool students. The club members present during the donation events were Jim Broberg, Mike Yochum, Steve Schwartz, Joe Ubl and club President Craig McCormick.

According to Broberg, the club used to donate dictionaries to area schools. Now, with the widespread use of the internet, the need for printed reference books has decreased. The Lions Club pivoted from donating dictionaries to donating live trees to students in partnership with the city of Albert Lea. 

The goal of the project is to promote the protection and preservation of the area’s natural resources. It is hoped that planting of these new trees will also alleviate some of the damage caused by the emerald ash borer insects in the area. The tree donation coordinates with life science units third-grade students are taught during the school year. 

Ben Bangert, an arborist for the city of Albert Lea, conducted a short presentation for each classroom about the importance of planting trees and the best way to nurture them while they grow. 

He shared the goal of the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 50 million trees by 2027, at which point the third graders will be in sixth grade. He also encouraged students who do not have space to plant a tree to give their sapling to a friend, family member or neighbor.

Because all of the trees provided are shade trees, Bangert explained that they should be large enough to provide some shade when the students graduate high school.

Along with trees, students received a packet with planting and care instructions for their trees, stickers and a list of scavenger hunt activities to do around the city. Students who complete items for the scavenger hunt are able to enter a drawing online or at the Albert Lea City Arena for the chance to win prizes.