How a tree at RiverWalk is helping cloth the homeless

Warming Tree, by the RiverWalk, provides supplies to those in need in Bowling Green.

Gabrielle Bunton

The Warming Tree is an example of how the Bowling Green community comes together to take care of its people.

The Warming Tree is located by the walking bridge at the RiverWalk at Mitch McConnell Park. People can come and place donations for the homeless that live by the bridge. The tradition was started by Teresa Douglas in 2017. It was then taken over by her granddaughter Kimber Doyle in 2018 after her grandfather had lung cancer.

People have left various things on the tree such as food, socks, scarves, hygiene items, hats, coats and more.

The biggest donation so far came from Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Phi Beta Lambda, the collegiate division of Future Business Leaders of America.

Janel Doyle, Kimber’s mother, said that they have been collecting items for months.

“They took all of their items and brought them to the tree,” Janel Doyle said. “That’s the biggest donation from individual groups this year that we are aware of.”

Kim Otto, advisor of Phi Beta Lambda and associate professor at SKYCTC, said the student organization was having a hard time finding community service due to the pandemic.

“Janel used to teach at SKYCTC, and I have always kept up with her,” Otto said. “After seeing what her daughter was doing, I was touched. The Warming Tree was something where we didn’t have to be around a lot of people, and we could do it safely.”

While the student organization is focused on business and helping students with their leadership skills, they also build relationships with the community and the campus, making community service an important aspect. For the massive donation, they set up donation boxes on all six of their campuses.

“I think we collected over 100 items like gloves, scarves, coats, socks and some blankets,” Otto said. “Everyone participated and actually donated, and we had a really good response.”

The humble roots of the Warming Tree have not only inspired people, but let the Doyle family keep up their tradition of giving back to the community.

Kimber Doyle said the inspiration behind it was just being able to give back to people.

“It’s giving love back to the community,” Kimber Doyle said. “It’s giving love to us when we put things on it and they take it. Helping the homeless stay warm and have food in their stomachs is all about love.”

With her mother being the coordinator for Toys for Tots, Kimber Doyle has been serving the community since she was four years old. With her years of community service, Kimber Doyle has learned a life lesson – equality.

“Everybody is equal, even if they don’t have anywhere to live. God still put them on this earth,” Kimber Doyle said. “Everyone is able to have love in their hearts, especially what we’re going through right now. I think it’s very important.”

Find updates and more information about the Warming Tree on their Facebook page, The Warming Tree.

Gabrielle Bunton can be reached at [email protected]. edu. Follow her on Twitter @gabriellebunton.