TROTWOOD, Ohio (WDTN) – Two years after the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes, the community is still rebuilding. One unique disaster relief organization, RETREET, said they are planning to help community members replant trees — one of the most difficult and most critical items to replace.

“When you live in a community as long as I have, many of the trees I lost during the tornado were trees that I planted when children were born, when children died,” said Trotwood resident Rap Hankins.” And the children planted those trees with me. So when I lost the trees that we love during the tornado, I actually lost memories I [was] connected to.”

Hankins, a former Trotwood city councilman, said that’s not all the community lost. They also lost beautiful scenery, environmental benefits, and even economic benefits, such as providing shade to lower energy bills. That’s where the RETREET program comes in. 

“We are coming to the Dayton metro area to plant along the path of the 2019 tornadoes, and we’ll start doing that work this fall and expect to plant 1,000 trees over the next couple of years,” said Grady McGahan, director of RETREET, a branch of Keep America Beautiful

The natural disaster relief organization is collaborating with Miami Valley partners to plant hundreds of trees each day starting in the fall. Miami Valley residents can request to have up to two trees planted on their property in efforts to restore the adult trees that existed before the tornadoes.

“The work that we do — it’s not about the day that we plant the trees,” said McGahan. And speaking of which, these are 15 gallon, native trees that will be seven to 10 feet tall, the day we plant them. And while that will make a massive impact — planting 175, 200 trees in a neighborhood on a single day — you know, it’s not about the impact that we make that day as much as it is the impact that will be made in 50 years from now.”

Community members are encouraged to help with the tree recovery campaign. Groups and individuals can sign up to volunteer when planting schedules become available. RETREET and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission said they are also grateful for donations, with every donation of $500 or more being matched by AES Ohio, up to $50,000.

To donate, click here.

To follow the Miami Valley Regional Planning Committee to find when planting and volunteer schedules open, click here.