Tree puts unity in ‘CommUNITY’

Published 10:08 pm Friday, December 11, 2020

By HUNTER CLOUD

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — A large tree decorated with ornaments stands at Jefferson and North Union streets in Natchez with a banner calling it the “CommUNITY Tree.”

The unity tree was originally the idea of Michael Gray, a co-founder of Y’all Means All, a non-profit organization of LGBQT+ individuals and supporters who believe everyone in Natchez deserves tolerance, honesty and generosity.

John Grady Burns, president of Y’all Means All, said he believes a community unity tree was a perfect opportunity to bring the community together.

Craig and Pattie Sanders agreed to allow Y’all Means All to use a tree on their property at Jefferson and North Union streets, the site of the old Eidt Service Station.

“We had thought about it in the past. It just never came to fruition,” Craig Sanders said. “We just thought it was a great idea, and it came together this year more than any other year.”

Y’all Means All worked together with the Sanders family to decorate the tree, adding lights and ribbons to the tree. The Sanders are paying for the electricity for the lights.

Sanders said decorating the top half of the tree took a couple of hours last Sunday with help from workers with a bucket truck, which was donated by Delta Fuel in Ferriday, Louisiana.

Craig Sanders said he hung the banner on the side of the old service station building. The banner invites people to hang ornaments on the tree “in honor or memory of a loved one.” Lights on the tree operate on a timer, Craig Sanders said, from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Y’all Means All is invested in making Natchez more inviting for everyone, Burns said, and to raise funds for suicide prevention.

Natchez Community Liaison Brian Marvel said Mayor of Natchez Dan Gibson plans to sign a proclomation for the Unity Tree.

People are welcome to stop by the Unity Tree and take pictures or hang their own ornaments on the tree. The bottom half of the tree has been left open for people to hang ornaments on, Burns said, adding he hopes to see more ornaments as the Christmas season continues.

“Probably through New Years,” Burns said of the duration of the Unity Tree. “Then after that we will take it down at that point because It is more of a holiday thing and at some point we all need to move forward.”