Our Community’s Giving Tree

The story begins in 2016 with a large white oak tree that grew on the grounds where the homes of Meadowmont now stand. Executive Director Ken Kramer discerned that the tree could be harvested and cut into boards that would be kiln-dried. The collective vision was that someday somebody would use the lumber for special projects. An extraordinary narrative began to form around the harvested wood.

During the first month of the Covid-19 lockdown, March 2020. Fred Hale, a resident, and woodworker who managed the Resident Wood Shop, wanted to make a gift to develop a worship space for Givens Highland Farms. Resident Zaida Gilmour and Mark Bailey, Givens Communities development director, met with Fred on Zaida’s porch to discuss ideas for the intended gift. Fred shared that he had entered hospice service and was nearing the end of his life.

Mark invited Ken Kramer and Lynn Bledsoe, our Givens Communities minister, to discuss using Fred’s gift to lay the groundwork for a worship space for Givens Highland Farms. Everyone involved aspired to complete the first step while Fred was still with us by creating a sacred piece used in worship.

The wood was ready. Mark reached out to Reverend Erich Thompson, a local pastor with a passion for sacred furniture design and woodworking, and commissioned him to create the first piece for the anticipated worship space. Although Erich was a year out from beginning new commissions, he graciously accepted the request and designed a baptismal font crafted from the white oak. Zaida also contributed to the gift of the baptismal font in honor of her beloved Fred. Fred selected three matching boards for the font and lived to see their completion. Our community dedicated the baptismal font at Fred’s (virtual) memorial service in July 2020.

In September 2021, resident Ed Platz suggested that it would be meaningful to have a designated cross for the weekly vespers services in the Assembly Room. Lynn mentioned this request to Mark, hoping that he would be interested in a second project using the wood of the aforementioned white oak tree. Mark appealed to Erich to provide a cross design to coordinate with the baptismal font and future liturgical furnishings.

Mark and several residents worked faithfully to create the cross and complete it in time for the 2021 All Saints Sunday Service. Chuck Dobson, who currently oversees the Resident Woodshop, recruited resident woodworkers to help. Chuck, Robert Norfleet, and Mark created the initial assembly of the cross from our white oak wood and a piece of walnut. Next, residents and staff sanded and finished the cross. They also made a smaller version of the same cross out of the white oak. Nearly 30 individuals sanded the two beautiful crosses from 100 grit to 600 grit. The final finish is a blend of walnut oil, Carnauba oil, and beeswax.

The large cross was dedicated on All Saints Sunday, in a service that remembered Fred Hale and 88 additional saints from our community. The smaller cross was presented to Lynn on the occasion of her final worship service with us upon her retirement. May this extraordinary story flourish as our Givens Highland Farms Giving Tree continues her story and blesses our community’s legacy.

All Saints Service – https://youtu.be/XahkuK8kwCc
Fred Hale’s virtual service – https://youtu.be/N-B1mSC14TM