Savannah Tree Foundation Gala


Hey y’all! First up, I want to give a massive “thank you” to the benevolent Charles H. Morris Sr., Erica Baskin and Christopher Sweat at Connect Savannah for the invitation to continue writing about all things local! 

From the people that make this town so fabulous to the never ending events I attend, I will be giving y’all a weekly recap of some of the wicked-cool and diverse social happenings around Savannah and the Coastal Empire.

Spring in Savannah means the social scene is in full swing, with dozens of events to choose from. My esiest decision of the week was to accept an invitation from Zoe Rinker of the Savannah Tree Foundation for The Green Gala at Tiedeman Park on April 23.

Something to know about me: I love trees! Yep, I’m a self proclaimed tree-lover who has gone tree-searching all over the country: from the west coast Sequoias over to Louisiana for their live oaks, to the massive cypress trees in our South Georgia swamps. When I heard that The Green Gala was going to be beneath the canopy of palms across from Savannah Arts Academy, I zoomed over to Washington Avenue.

Greeting me are RePurpose Savannah queens Katie Fitzhugh, Kelley Lowe and Briana Grosicki. Still amped from their “Party in the Yard” two weeks ago, I am snapping a pic of the super-fit females when I hear my name being called by a petite lady I don’t recognize. She says, “You loved my brother and he loved you. I’m his sister.” 

It took me a second to regroup but when I reached down to hug Gordon Varnado’s sister, Comer Immel, I felt a little bit closer to one of Savannah’s most beloved characters. Nothing like Gordon, with his boisterous personality, Comer quietly introduces me to her husband of 10 years, Episcopal priest Otto Immel, giggling when Otto shares, “We are the types of priests allowed to marry!” I ask how young this couple is. Comer is 82 and Otto is 85. What?!

Literally having to drag myself away from the precious couple, I follow Michele Gutting over for a photo with her daughter Amy, husband Paul, and Kim and Mark Sturdavant. Amy and Michele are a mother-and-daughter real estate team, and that they are sponsors tonight.

With more fabulously attired peeps arriving, I make a lap over to hug world-traveling photographer Howard Hackney, yell when I see tall empress Christiana Turner, then detour over to convince Lila Critz to pose for a pic with her husband Dale Critz Sr. Standing with them is Guerry Lumber’s William Wheat and his gorgeous wife Lydia. 

Knowing that the Guerry Lumber’s matriarch Lynda Beam is going to be honored tonight, I am now on the lookout for the iconic preservationist when I see this dazzling young woman with short-styled hair and a fitted dress talking to International Paper’s Karen Bogans. Wait - this can’t be her daughter Jordan! How has this child grown up so fast?

 Moving back through the crowd, I find PR queen Marjorie Young chatting with Colonial Group’s Annette Youmans. While talking with the petite brunette, I learn that the Effingham County native has worked with Colonial for 30 years, loves to hike and fish and is here tonight with their sustainability team. 

Weaving through the crowd of what has to be 250 people, I meet Georgia Power Utility Arborist Supervisor Bill Haws. Asking the New York native to explain his job title, I learn that he is a supervisor over 12,700 miles of distribution lines. “Our team manages the vegetation for safety and service reliability of our power distribution system. I love trees and want to make sure that the right tree is in the right place,” shares the Savannah Tree Foundation board member. 

Next up is the lady that has taken Savannah Tree Foundation to new heights. Zoe Rinker is holding court with her mom Kim Bockius-Suwyn and her grandmother Jane Bockius. After posing the three generations together for a pic, I steal Zoe away for a quick rundown of all things trees.

“Tonight is about honoring our founding mothers and celebrating 40 years of Savannah Tree Foundation. That’s 40 years of protecting and growing our urban forest-one of the most beautiful in the world! The ‘green’ in Green Gala doesn’t just allude to our lush canopy-we are stroving to make tonight as sustainable as possible,” shares the proud executive director. (Thanks to their efforts and amazing partners, fewer than four trash cans of waste are headed to the landfill.) 

So if you are a tree lover like me, join this small but mighty non-profit that planted 5,o68 trees across all nine municipalities, has 25,000+ volunteer hours in tree planting and maintenance and has given away 1,000+ trees. Representing more than $2.5 million invested into our community. I have so much admiration for safe keepers of  our quiet, life-supporting giants and hope that I will see y’all at their next event!

- Bunny In the City appears weekly in Connect Savannah and on

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