From Ely to the Twin Cities, people responded on Monday to an act of vandalism with acts of generosity.
"This has become a whole lot more than I ever imagined," said David Starkman, co-owner of Ely Flower and Seed.
Last fall, Starkman had volunteered his services to plant five flowering crabapple trees as part of a veterans memorial that is being developed at the trailhead of the Trezona Trail, a path that goes around Miners Lake in Ely.
The trees, which were budding last week, were donated by a group called Friends of the Trees of Ely.
But late Sunday night or very early Monday morning, someone methodically attacked the trees. It appeared they cut into the 8-foot-tall trees with a tool such as a hand pruner and then broke and tipped them over in the same direction, Starkman said.
A city employee noticed the damage on Monday morning and contacted Harold Langowski, Ely's clerk-treasurer and director of operations.
Langowski said Starkman was among the first people he notified. Incensed, Starkman posted a note - labeled "Disgusting act of intentional vandalism" - on his store's Facebook page.
Among those who read his note were the people at Bailey Nurseries in Newport, Minn., with whom Ely Flower and Seed has had a business relationship for 30 years, Starkman said.
Bailey responded quickly, donating 15 flowering crabs that are bigger than the five they'll replace, Starkman said. Moreover, Ely Flower and Seed had a truck at Bailey Nurseries, receiving an order. The donated trees will be brought to Ely today along with that order, he said.
Meanwhile, donations started coming in to the store. Those will be turned over to the veterans memorial group, Starkman said.
At the same time, $800 was donated by noon to post a reward for information leading to arrests for the vandalism, said Tony Colarich, a member of the veterans memorial committee.
The city and Starkman will work together on siting and planting the new trees, both Starkman and Langowski said.
But the act of vandalism still stings.
"What kind of security measures do you have to put at a veterans memorial?" Langowski asked. "It's kind of disappointing, especially the day after Easter."
But no one is allowing the vandalism to discourage the community's efforts to memorialize its veterans, all involved said.
"We'll do whatever is necessary in order to make it at least as nice if not nicer," Starkman said.