Community Commitment

Kentucky Outfitters find inspiration through planting trees

Outfitters at Cabela’s in Lexington, Kentucky, recently turned to conservation for peace of mind and inspiration in the midst of trying times.

“The past year has really been draining,” said HR Coordinator Tina Godby. “We’ve had to rethink how we do everything, and our Outfitters have rolled with changes that came quicker than anything ever has before.”

That led Tina to do some research on different ways to help overcome trying times. One answer kept popping back into Tina’s mind. She thought about the customers who kept visiting the store, picking up gear to go camping, hiking and fishing.

“Seeing the community come in and purchase items to get them back outdoors was very inspiring,” she said. “To know that we were part of new memories these families are making was exciting.”

That was the solution – give back to those customers as they practiced the ultimate form of social distancing in the outdoors.

“The community came in and supported us during the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, so we can give back through service in conservation,” she said.

The store now serves as a pickup spot for “Reforest the Bluegrass,” an annual event that has helped to restore more than 195 acres of floodplains, with more than 150,000 tree seedlings planted over the last 20 years. The team also donated its entire inventory of Bass Pro Shops-branded buckets to Reforest the Bluegrass to package tree seedlings going to pickup sites across Lexington.

Earlier this month, a dozen Outfitters turned out on a cold, rainy day to plant trees in a green space near the store.

“Seeing our Outfitters working in the mud and rain to plant trees filled my heart with pride!” Tina said. “Every single Outfitter had smiles all the way up to their eyes. Everyone was laughing and talking about visiting the location to watch our trees grow. It made me feel hopeful and purposeful.”

The wet conditions even wound up being a positive.

“The rain was discouraging, until we saw how much easier it made digging the holes for the trees,” she said. “It turned into a great team-building exercise. We had to rely on each other to get the hole deep enough, the sapling in the ground correctly and the soggy earth tamped back down around it. We all left wet, muddy and tired, but excited about driving by and seeing the trees grow.”

The tree-planting itself only lasted for one afternoon, but the impact of the experience figures to be felt for far longer than that. Several of the Outfitters have talked about visiting the site once a year and taking photos to mark the progress.

“It was just a bonus to help make Lexington a more beautiful place at the same time,” said Alexis Sulfridge, a Team Lead in Men’s Clothing at the Lexington store.

A lasting impact on conservation and the future of the outdoors in Central Kentucky, born from the idea of exploring ways to give back and find positives in challenging times.

And planting some trees in the rain.

“Watching the team work together to get the trees planted was a great experience,” Tina said. “Being part of that camaraderie and enjoying the fellowship of nature was therapeutic and invigorating. I can’t wait to do it again. Sharing the experience got other Outfitters excited and ready to volunteer at the next event. I can only see this growing bigger year after year.”