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Good Old Days:

Rotary Club donates seedlings to students

March 16, 2008

In 1982, Stacy DeBoom, a third-grade student at Kaiser Elementary School, received an evergreen tree seedling from the Newport-Balboa Rotary Club.

All third-graders in the Newport-Mesa School District were given a seedling in honor of Arbor Day, a 40-year tradition started by late County Supervisor Tom Riley, who was Rotary Club president at the time.

In addition to the seedlings, the club also dedicates a large specimen tree every year to be planted on the campus of an elementary school in the Newport-Mesa School District.

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It’s been more than 20 years since Stacy and her dad collaborated on a tree-planting project; on Wednesday, however, the father-and-daughter team will have another opportunity when Jim DeBoom, a past Rotary Club district governor, presents this year’s tree — a 10-foot Ornamental Pear — to Paularino Elementary School and Principal Stacy DeBoom.

“I’m proud that she’s a principal and a teacher, and very proud that I can present the tree to that school this year,” Jim said.

Stacy DeBoom said she and her friends still talk about the trees they planted and wonder whether some of them are still around.

Knowing her students will receive their trees from her dad, on the 40th anniversary of the Rotary Club’s Arbor Day Project, makes the occasion even more special, Stacy said.

“I think about all the memories my little munchkins will have thinking about their trees. I hope they remember all the special times at school, that in addition to the academics, they’re building other kinds of memories.”

Founded in Nebraska in 1872, Arbor Day is a holiday that encourages individuals and groups to plant and care for trees.

Over the years, the Rotary Club has given more than 92,000 seedlings to generations of third-graders in both public and private schools in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.

As a Rotary Club member, Jim DeBoom has been involved with the Arbor Day project for years, and said when the trees are delivered, they talk to the students about “our responsibility to Mother Nature.”

Teachers work it into their lesson plans, talking about science and the environment, he said, and give the third-graders tips on how to plant and care for the seedlings whether they are grown in the ground or in containers.

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