Trees of Life taking root across South County

Lloyd Appell and Marian Steffens pose with a Tree of Life.

South County residents will notice a few quick-growing trees popping up around three communities.

In Schoolcraft, one will sprout in front of the historic Ladies Library building south of the Post Office. In Vicksburg two: one in front of the Train Depot at the Historic Village, another at the high school. Driving through Climax, watch for one at the corner of Main and Maple.

The four trees are more than just holiday decorations. According to Executive Director Drew Johnson of South County Community Services (SCCS), the trees represent a way the community can celebrate the holidays, support area families in need and honor a loved one.

“For many, the holidays mean family gatherings, presents, snow, decorating the holiday tree,” Johnson said. “But for far too many of our neighbors, this time of the year brings incredible stress and need.”

Johnson said nearly a third of residents in the six-township region referred to as South County live below the poverty line or have serious difficulties meeting such basic needs for food, transportation, housing, health care and utilities. This time of the year, he said, SCCS sees an increase in calls for help and support. And again this year with the impact of the pandemic continuing, more families than ever continue to need help.

SCCS is doing something about it. Through the nonprofit’s year-end Trees of Life campaign, people can make a donation at to have a hand-made and decorated ornament added to one of the trees. With the donation, donors can commemorate a loved one, remember a lost one, or honor people important to them with the names displayed on the ornament.

All funds raised through the Trees of Life campaign support areas families in need, helping to brighten their holidays and sending them into 2022 with more hope and support.

“As more families look for ways to more deeply celebrate the season with more meaning, the Trees of Life ornament campaign is a perfect way to honor loved ones while also helping area families in need have more a joyful holiday,” said Donna Smith, the project chair from Climax.

South County Community Services will hold a public Trees of Life celebration at 1 p.m. Wednesday, December 8 around the Climax tree next to Township Hall at 151 S Main St., Climax. The public is invited to attend and enjoy free holiday refreshments provided by Scott’s Corner Café. Ornaments will be available for donation-purchase at the event, and a short presentation will update attendees on campaign progress, remember those in need this holiday season, and recognize campaign sponsors.

South County Community Services for more than four decades has served area families and individuals in need. From senior services to veteran support to food pantries and other supportive programs, SCCS is the only human service agency dedicated to serving the 25,000 residents who live in the southern tier of Kalamazoo County. SCCS’s work changes lives and saves lives.

Those wishing to purchase an ornament to honor a loved one or learn about the Trees of Life project can go to They may also call 269-649-2901 to place a phone order or discuss sponsorship or visit SCCS’s office at 606 Spruce Street, Vicksburg. To learn more about SCCS, go to

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