The city of Dunwoody, along with Trees Atlanta, hosted a volunteer day Saturday at Pernoshal Park. Volunteers of all ages came from all over metro Atlanta on a beautiful fall day to make the park even more beautiful than it already is.

With an emphasis on native plants, volunteers planted three kinds of trees in the sunnier areas – black gum, redbud and dogwood – and in shadier areas three kinds of shrubs – ninebark, red chokeberry and Southern arrow-wood.

Because of the condition of the soil, the work was arduous, especially considering that the workers were unpaid volunteers. Planting trees and shrubs requires digging very large holes, ordinarily not a supreme challenge. But due to the ongoing drought, the soil in all but the shadiest spots was so hard and dry it required a pickaxe for digging the proper size hole. Unfortunately, a shortage of axes required many of the volunteers to use simple garden shovels to chip away at the hard Georgia clay.

Why would anyone give up a picture-postcard autumn Saturday to dig in such unforgiving soil to plant trees and shrubs for other people to enjoy?

“When I saw the ad in The Crier, I was so excited I had to come,” said Dunwoodian Ana Grosso, who came with her friend Roxana Obregon. She also brought her son, Fabio, who is wheelchair bound.

“I wanted to show Fabio how we keep this place as beautiful as we found it,” she said.

Several middle school and high school students came as part of school-related community service projects. One such program is Chamblee Interact, a student club at Chamblee Charter High School that performs community service throughout the school year.

“We had a choice of three activities for today,” said Nevin Aresh, 14, an Interact member. “I chose this because I had never planted a tree before.”

He was joined by his younger brother, Nethan, a student at Kittridge Magnet School, and their father

One of the largest contingents was from the Chess Club at Sutton Middle School, 12 miles away on Northside Drive. Yes, the Chess Club at SMS does community service. And so do the parents, who do not only the driving but also much of the digging.

School projects weren’t the only reasons people participated. Boy Scouts from Kingswood United Methodist Church came to earn volunteer hours as part of reaching the next rank.

As he dug away with his two sons, both members of Kingswood Troop 477, Walter Henderson said, “I’m just the dad.” A dad with a shovel, that is.

A student from Kennesaw University came to share the skills he has learned working part-time for his father’s landscaping business while he logged community service hours before facing a judge over a speeding ticket.

Other people came simply because they love trees. Jan and Joe Nicholson have a history of planting trees in Dunwoody. Last winter, Joe, former president of the American Chestnut Foundation, was part of a group that planted endangered American chestnut trees near the community garden at Brook Run.

“We have a passion for native plants,” said Jan, a master gardener, who with Joe, was digging a hole in the hard Georgia clay with a shovel.

“We’ll get this done by Monday,” Joe joked.

Hannah Pincus, a resident of Dunwoody who volunteers regularly with Trees Atlanta said it was “cool” to be planting trees in her own neighborhood.

Ed Cohen, a retiree and another regular volunteer for Trees Atlanta, perhaps summed it up best for most of the volunteers.

“I just love to be outdoors,” he said.

Whatever their reasons, families, friends and strangers came together at Pernoshal Park on Volunteer Day. Thanks to their efforts, the path from Pernoshal Park to Brook Run is now lined with brand-new trees and shrubs native to Georgia. All they need now is a little rain.

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