Giving tree back at Bellview

Making good on her promise to bring back Bellview Elementary School's giving tree, Principal Michelle Zundel set up three Southern Oregon Peco Pines in the school's lobby Wednesday afternoon.

The move seemed to quell some of the uproar Zundel created when she removed the giving tree during the school's Thanksgiving break because a family complained that the tree was a religious symbol.

"I'm glad the tree's back," Gwendolyn Terra said as she picked up her daughter from Bellview. "I think it's one thing we can all kind of enjoy together. They're outside everywhere in Oregon anyway, so why not celebrate with them?"

Zundel picked out the trees herself on Wednesday, getting sap on her hands in the process, she said.

"The giving tree did not return in its original form," she wrote in an e-mail to Bellview parents and other concerned community members. "Participants at our community meeting proposed ideas for a display that reflects our whole school community. Our staff will review them and determine how to decorate the tree."

Zundel met with other school administrators, including Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, Wednesday afternoon to decide how to decorate the trees.

After Wednesday's meeting, school officials did not immediately release information about how the trees would be decorated.

School officials, and possibly students, will begin decorating the trees today, Zundel said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the trees sat surrounded by gifts community members had donated for needy children at the school. The largest of the three trees was flanked by the two snowmen Zundel put up in place of the original giving tree last week.

Zundel said she changed her mind about the tree, which had tags requesting gifts for needy children at the school, after hearing from hundreds of people nationwide who complained about the removal.

All of the needy children who had tags on the tree will receive gifts from donors, but the giving tree organizers are still requesting donations to purchase food for a holiday meal for the children's families, they said.

After Tuesday's community meeting, where Zundel announced she would restore the tree, an anonymous donor gave $300 to the giving tree project, Zundel said.

Jessica Lemhouse, whose children attend Bellview and whose husband is City Councilman Greg Lemhouse, said she would like to see a giving tree or similar concept up at the school year-round.

"I think it's wonderful that now there's so many gifts for children in need around the tree," she said. "I think that should happen year-round — whether it's a tree or not — during all the seasons."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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