By Joe Bachman
NEKOOSA — Domtar celebrated Earth Day on Friday by giving back to the Nekoosa community.
In partnership with First Book, Domtar visited Humke Elementary on Friday to donate and read new books to kindergartners, as well as plant five trees — one for each kindergarten class. The Earth Day celebration reached 80 students, who got the opportunity to get a little dirty for a great cause.
“We’ve been partnering with First Book here in Nekoosa since 2015, but this is the first year we’ve donated books to Humke,” said Domtar Business Relations Coordinator Ginny Johnson. “Before that, we worked with Head Start programs in the area, but because of its size, Humke allowed us to reach more children — they were so excited when we arrived because they had been talking about it all week. You could feel the energy when you walked into the classrooms.”
A grant was provided by Domtar for 80 books so that each student could take one home. First Book is an organization that provides books to children who are disadvantaged, and from the partnership, not only did Domtar purchase 80 books for these kindergartners, but provide additional learning materials for their classes.
Domtar volunteers read to to the children, specifically “Our Tree Named Steven”. They split up between the five classrooms to read the story at the same time. After story-time, children were asked questions in efforts to engage about what they just heard.
“They loved the color of the pages and the interesting illustrations,” said Johnson. “The books alone create conversations. Reading is so important to kids, touching the pages—that’s how words come to life for them.”
Domtar employee Bob Peterson served as an Ambassador for Nekoosa’s EarthChoice Program, which promotes environmental education and social projects in Domtar communities. Volunteers helped bring in the trees from a local nursery, which weighed around a hundred pounds each.
After being given yellow hardhats, students gathered to help plant the trees, which will grow to provide shade for future students for years to come. Humke students even named each of their five trees. However, while the emphasis was placed on reading and environmental education, the best moments were made in the countless smiles on the faces of Humke students that day.
“The best moment for me personally was when a boy came up to me and gave me the biggest hug ever and said ‘thank you’,” said Johnson. “To know you made a difference in someone’s day is the best feeling in the world. I had a smile on my face the rest of the day.”