A monster storm didn't stop these volunteers from planting nearly 100 trees after a twister ripped through their community

After six twisters ripped through the Ottawa-Gatineau area last month, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and thousands of people were left without power, including Blerta Mahmuti.

"We lost power in the evening, but didn't think much about it," recalls Mahmuti, Senior Analyst, TD Bank Group. "It was a disappointment that we couldn't watch Netflix, but my brother and I laughed it off. We grew up in Eastern Europe where losing power was common, so it reminded us of our childhood. It wasn't until the next day that we realized how much destruction the winds had caused."

The day after the storm, Mahmuti along with TD volunteers, members of the Canada Wildlife Federation and volunteers from the community were supposed to plant up to 100 native trees and shrubs as part of the ninth annual TD Tree Days. Power was gradually being restored in the aftermath of the storm, but nearly 300,000 people were without electricity, (including Mahmuti) when she woke up.

"I had no phone, no internet and no way to get in touch with the TD Tree Day volunteers who had registered. My only option was to honour my commitment," said Mahmuti. "Even if one volunteer showed up, we could still make a difference and it would be worth it."

Mahmuti headed to the event. Normally it would be a 20-minute commute, but it ended up taking her over an hour to get to the planting location due to darkened traffic lights and fallen trees had closed several streets.

Mahmuti was undeterred.

"My passion for environmentalism and conservation is why I got involved with the event. I help champion environmental awareness in our Ottawa office and encourage people to come out to our community events because I see the impact these events have on our community with the help of our incredible volunteers," said Mahmuti, adding that as she drove through the damaged city she feared no other volunteers would show up that day. 

But when she arrived there were 19 volunteers and staff members from the Canada Wildlife Federation ready to roll up their sleeves and start planting. Luckily, the area where they met wasn't badly affected by the storm, and seeing the damage gave many of them added reason to help regenerate the local greenery. 

"The bright smiles and genuine enthusiasm of the volunteers made for a great day," said Sarah Coulber, Canadian Wildlife Federation. "They happily got to work, digging native trees and shrubs whose food and shelter will support local and migratory wildlife like songbirds and pollinators. The Canadian Wildlife Federation will also use these plants as an educational tool to showcase, both online and in person, how beautiful and beneficial our native plants are."

By the end of the day, Mahmuti and the volunteers had planted 88 new trees and shrubs, which would also contribute to TD's wider target of planting 1 million trees by 2030 as part of The Ready Commitment.

Over 35,000 trees are being planted across Canada this fall. Visit www.tdtreedays.com for more information and to register for a planting event in your community.

TD Tree Days helps bring to life The Ready Commitment by growing and enhancing green spaces across North America. For nine years, TD Tree Days has helped build healthy and vibrant communities by facilitating the planting of over 300,000 native trees and shrubs across the country.