By MARGARET BLOHM
For the Times-Herald Newspapers
DEARBORN – Beaumont Commons, Dearborn has a “Hero Tree” on campus that recently became the talk of this senior living community.
Administrator Linda Nickerson said it is Director of Residential Care Karen Miller who decorated the colorful tree with photos of staff to recognize them for their dedication and tireless efforts throughout the pandemic to help keep residents safe and engaged.
“Karen won’t take any credit herself, though she will gladly share the history of the tree,” Nickerson said.
Then, Miller explained how a very creative woman, Donna Gardner, brought the tree to Beaumont Commons a few years ago when her mother, Joyce Cunningham, moved into an assisted living apartment.
“Donna decorated the tree for her mom every holiday throughout the year,” Miller said. “It was something all of us admired and looked forward to seeing.”
Sadly, Cunningham died in August 2020, and Gardner gifted the tree with bins of decorations to the community.
Miller admitted that she forgot about the tree until Christmas and decided to honor Cunningham and cheer the residents by decorating it for the holidays. Then came Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. The tree came alive for each holiday.
“A few weeks ago, I walked into a dollar store and saw some butterfly wings that reminded me of angel wings,” Miller said. “I decided to buy them for the tree, because I thought of our staff who have been the true angels.”
Miller first started decorating the tree with photos of certified nursing assistants, who help residents in assisted living. Realizing how many staff contribute to their well-being, she and others took photos of people in every department including food services, housekeeping, delivery and transportation, activities and more.
As photos were added to the tree, more and more residents and staff took notice. It soon became known as the “Hero Tree.”
“The tree is beautiful and a great way to showcase our staff,” said Angie Hall, Assisted Living receptionist. “I have never seen anything like it before.”
“It’s the satisfaction of seeing everyone’s reaction to the tree that gives me the most joy,” said Miller, who continues to stay in touch with Gardner and send her photos each time the décor changes.
“My mom’s memory being carried on is what gets me through,” Gardner texted, after receiving the most recent photos. “I love the staff appreciation idea. The tree looks amazing. You made my day.”
“Joyce’s tree and Donna’s gift have taken on new meaning and given us purpose,” Miller said. “The ‘Hero Tree’ is truly a ‘giving tree.’”