Two local nonprofits have launched a new project in South Phoenix that seeks to commemorate people who have died from COVID-19 and those who have survived the deadly respiratory disease.
Tiger Mountain Foundation, a group that works to curb recidivism by training formerly incarcerated people in gardening and landscaping, and Trees Matter, which seeks to increase the tree canopy in the Valley, partnered to launch the Resiliency Project.
The project will plant 100 trees in a community garden, called Spaces of Opportunity, in South Phoenix. Name tags of those who have died or survived COVID-19 will hang from the tree branches, said Aimee Esposito, executive director of Trees Matter.
“We are resilient, in times and in challenges,” she said. “Trees provide that center for hope and building for tomorrow.”
People can apply online to have a tree tag issued in the name of the person they wish to commemorate. The tags will be provided free of charge through ongoing fundraising efforts, she said.
On Dec. 12, the groups planted the first 10 citrus trees.
Esposito said the mission of the project is for there to be a permanent community space where the victims and survivors of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can be commemorated in a healing environment.
“In a way that is positive, we are planting and regrowing,” Esposito said.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 7,422 people in the state have died of complications due to COVID-19, as of Dec. 15.
In Maricopa County, Black, Native American and Latino residents have higher rates of contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized for it than their White neighbors, according to data from the Maricopa County Public Health Department. This is due to underlying health and social inequities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The South Phoenix neighborhood is among the city’s most ethnically and racially diverse – about 83% of its residents are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, according to City of Phoenix data from 2010.