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“Tree of Hope” gives joy during tough pandemic

Jake Berg photo

Residents decorated a tree at the Monroe Family Village apartment complex off of W. Main Street.

MONROE — What started as a fun activity for the kids on Easter became a beacon of optimism in the Housing Hope Monroe Family Village. 
“Our kids here in the village were bored, so we did a little ‘Easter tree,’” said resident Connie Zerr. “We hung Easter eggs and Easter baskets in and around the tree.”
The tree Zerr is referring to is a small cherry tree located in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
The original Easter-themed decorations have been swapped for symbols of positivity during one of the most prolific pandemics in history. 
“The virus kicked in and we needed something to do, people were really depressed around here,” said Zerr. “We decided to take the eggs down and start putting butterflies and things of hope in the tree.”
The families that live in the village felt the tree was providing too much of a service to residents and should continue to be decorated, including an angel and flag at the top, according to Zerr. Many of the families brought their own mementos of hope to be hung
and placed around the tree.
“We told everybody; ‘if you have anything you want to bring to the tree of hope, come donate it,” and stuff started coming in from families here like crazy,” said Zerr.
The “tree of hope,” as it was named by the community of 57 families, became a way to get minds off the virus and proved to make a difference within the living complex. Kids that live in the community even painted rocks to place around the trunk of the tree of hope.
Over the past few weeks, many people have noticed the tree of hope and the continued efforts to keep it a pleasant sight for all who pass by it. 
“I’ve had the mailman (make comments,) I’ve had people, when I was down there weeding the flowers, stop by and thank me, I just can’t believe how many people that it affected,” said Zerr. 
Despite all the positivity, some items were stolen from the tree. Distraught at the fact someone would steal from the tree of hope, Zerr was considering taking the donated decorations back to the families who donated them. 
“I was really disappointed at one particular point, I wasn’t going to go down and work on it anymore,” said Zerr. 
Thankfully, the decorations reappeared as mysteriously as they vanished. “I don’t know what the story is behind bringing it back, but it was a bright spot,” she said.
Zerr didn’t stop at the tree of hope, she also turned her attention to the flowerbeds within the complex. Zerr stated she realized that she was placed on this earth to use her green thumb for good and “make the world a little more beautiful.”


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