Students decorate Bellview tree

On the tree that almost wasn't hang dradel, poinsettia and snowflake ornaments, created by Bellview Elementary School children Friday.

Principal Michelle Zundel made a controversial decision to remove the school's giving tree over Thanksgiving break, after a family complained that the tree was a religious symbol. After a community outcry, Zundel decided to restore a tree to the school on Wednesday and have children decorate it.

"It has been resolved on all sides," she said Friday. "Those that were concerned in the first place feel like the conversation has begun, and the folks who were concerned about its removal are pleased that it's back and pleased that I listened and could take diverse perspectives into account."

On Friday, students made ornaments of their choice, and then hung them on the giving tree. Students could select from pre-drawn ornaments or create their own.

"It feels good to have it back," said first-grade student Chase Hamik, 7, whose mother, Allison, co-coordinated the giving tree project. "It's helping kids who don't have enough money."

The giving tree had tags requesting gifts for 55 anonymous needy children at the school.

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

"I think things are picking up, but for a week and a half while there was all that controversy, the project was completely forgotten," said co-coordinator Serena Robinson.

Now that the controversy has abated and the tree is back up, Robinson and Hamik are focusing on getting the food baskets and gifts ready.

"This was the plan all along," Robinson said. "When I go look at that tree filled with the kid's ornaments and all the donations, it warms my heart."

For more information on the giving tree project contact Bellview at 482-1310.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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