Local woman organizes decorating of damaged trees

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Linda Harvey of Le Grand has launched a Marshalltown beautification “yarn bomb” project, whereby she decorates trees damaged by the tornado. Working with city officials, she has earmarked several trees for use in the project. This tree, located at the intersection of N. 8th Ave and E. State St., is in the beginning stages of being decorated.

Creating art out of chaos is the goal of local woman Linda Harvey, who has launched a tree decorating initiative, aimed at beautifying various trees damaged by the tornado.

“People driving around see all the twisted trees and the lack of trees, and all they are seeing is destruction and chaos,” Harvey said. “But when they see something beautiful like (the decorations), it changes their thought to something beautiful can come from this, and there is more out there than what we see right now. We don’t want a perfect looking tree to decorate and make beautiful — we want one that was pretty much destroyed to bring some beauty back to the neighborhoods.”

About a week after the July 19 storm, Harvey brainstormed ideas on how she could contribute to the cleanup efforts. She reached out to City Administrator Jessica Kinser, to learn more about the impacted trees.

“She did reach out to me to make sure it was OK,” Kinser said in an email to the T-R. “The city is only responsible for dead or diseased trees in the right-of-way, so I advised her to work with the property owners to get permission and to avoid areas where there were still hanging branches or a large amount of debris still on the right-of-way.”

So far, Harvey has earmarked eight trees around town that would benefit from this project. She is in the process of decorating the first tree, located at the intersection of N. 8th Ave. and E. State St.

“I have themes for several of the trees, so this one is ‘Feeling Blue, But Marshalltown Strong.’ Another one will be ‘Putting the Pieces of the Community Back Together, But Marshalltown Strong,'” she said.

Using repurposed fabrics, much of it donated, she sets to work creating her designs styled in what she calls “yarn bombs” in the installation art form. Knitted afghans, crocheted blankets, old sweaters and even a few sequined clothing items will all be incorporated.

How long does it take to decorate one tree?

“Six hours so far, and say an average of five people working for six hours, and we probably have six more hours of work before it’s done,” she said. “Installation art incorporates other things than yarn, and this blue tree will have growth coming out of the top, so it’s going to have metal and plastic pieces that will be added to it — more of a palm-tree look.”

Harvey said these trees are not slated for removal by the city, and she hopes the decorations will remain up for as long as the public wishes.

“If anyone has a tree they think would be a candidate, they can be put on the list or I can instruct them on how to do it themselves,” she said.

Harvey, who resides in Le Grand, has a degree in Early Childhood Education, and has spent years as an educator, in addition to working as an artist for such entities as Disney, Nickelodeon and Coca-Cola. She is currently employed at the Best Western Regency Inn and by Hy-Vee.

“I work here and have been connected to this community for 40 years,” she said.

After this first tree is completed, there will be a public meeting 9 a.m. on September 8 at the Marshalltown Public Library aimed at volunteers who want to help expand the concept.

“This should be a community project. This wasn’t a project I thought one person can go and decorate eight trees. I need help. I need people that can sew by hand, because these pieces are being hand-sewn on with yarn, and people not afraid to go up on ladders.”

Harvey ultimately wants to release a map showing folks where all of the decorated trees are located.

For more information, call or text her at 641-260-0810 or email at snshinemom@yahoo.com

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at

(641) 753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com