No matter the early hour or the frost on the ground, the fraternity members of Sigma Nu at the University of Montana were hard at work planting trees on Sunday morning.

Fortified with strong coffee and camaraderie, the fraternity brothers broke a sweat beautifying Sussex School.

The goal was to plant 17 trees along a chainlink fence on the school’s west side.

By the time the frost had thawed, the 30-some fraternity brothers had achieved their mission and were looking for other projects to tackle at the school.

“We wanted to do this because one of our alumni has a son that goes to this school and Sussex has this area to re-wild and was in need of manpower,” said Jim Grover, a UM sophomore and Sigma Nu’s philanthropy chairman.

“We wanted to do something that effects our community in a positive way, and we have done a couple of projects this year.”

So far, the fraternity has helped Flying H Stable stack two-ton of hay in a barn before a recent rain storm threatened to destroy it, and the fraternity has been involved with Up ’til Dawn and Relay For Life, two fundraising programs related to cancer research.

“We are looking for more opportunities to do things likes this – and we are hoping to do some work Big Brothers and Sisters and with the YMCA,” Grover said.

Kate Crouch, a Sussex teacher, was happy to see the dedicated workers on Sunday.

“They are a huge help,” Crouch said as she watched a line of ash, linden and native evergreens get planted in a long row, deep into dark fertile earth.

The trees will replace a significant void that was left behind when four old vine maples had to be removed from the school yard over the summer, Crouch explained.

“Having trees here will bring more wildlife, more birds, and will help us educate our children about the native species,” she said.

The volunteer help, she said, drives home a larger point.

“We are really excited to have such a fabulous extended relationship with the Missoula community,” Crouch said.

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

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