By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
It may have been the best $85 investment ever made in Sea Isle City. The results were priceless for the community.
Residents Shannon and Nicholas Giordano spent $85 to buy a 6-foot Douglas fir Christmas tree that they placed on the beach to serve as a community symbol of hope and inspiration amid the grimness of the coronavirus pandemic.
Anchored in the sand at 44th Street, the tree attracted countless visitors who came to adorn it with decorations, use it as a backdrop for holiday photos or to simply marvel over what became Sea Isle’s version of the miracle of Christmas.
“I think with last year, how it started with COVID hitting our area, it just seemed like people needed something to take their minds off of it. If we were able to share a little light with everyone, that was our intention,” Nicholas Giordano said of the tree’s uplifting effect on the community during the pandemic.
But on Monday, the Giordanos and their children, Gracelynn, 8, Giovanni, 6, and Vincenzo, 4, finally took the tree down after it became “pretty bare” from its exposure to the elements over the past five months, the family said.
Shannon Giordano noted that the family plans to put up a new tree at the same spot for the Christmas of 2021.
The Giordanos trimmed the tree during Christmas with garland, balls and a top star. Members of the community added to the decorations with an array of traditional ornaments as well as some quaint beach-themed touches ranging from toy sand shovels to hand-painted seashells.
Scattered in the sand at the base of the tree were even more seashells, some inscribed with personal messages and Christmas wishes.
However, the tree’s impact on the community lasted well after Christmas. It was later decorated for Valentine’s Day, then St. Patrick’s Day and finally Easter.
“It was nice to see people continue to put decorations on the tree,” Nicholas Giordano said.
The Giordanos took the decorative shells that surrounded the tree and placed them in the dunes. Some of them included messages of hope during the pandemic. “Better & brighter days ahead. Stay safe! God bless,” said one, inscribed with a smiley face.
Despite the winter and spring storms, the tree was never toppled by strong coastal winds. Giordano noted that he had to straighten the tree a few times after it was pummeled by winds, but he anchored it with stakes on the beach to fortify it against the bad weather.
“It was never knocked down,” he said.
Ultimately, though, the tree had to be removed because of its deteriorating condition. When the Giordanos were taking it down on Monday, they met a woman, Helene O’Neill, who told them she came to visit the tree as a source of comfort after the recent death of her husband, Nicholas Giordano said.
Although the tree was already down, Giordano stood it back up so that O’Neill could have her picture taken with it. Photos of her standing next to the tree and looking at the decorative seashells were posted on social media.
Other admirers of the tree posted comments on social media about the impact it had on them and the community.
“This was so awesome! Thank you for being a shining light of hope during this pandemic! Loved every minute of the 44th street tree,” wrote Carol Kane McGowan.
“A bright spot in dark times!!! Thanks for bringing us that little bit of joy,” posted Betty Anne Hedges.