One woman’s ‘trash’ has become a fundraising treasure for local organizations during the pandemic

photo by: Lauren Fox

Sara Gillum has been making rainbow tree decorations during the pandemic and donating the funds from her sales to nonprofits in Lawrence.

In Sara Gillum’s front yard, strings of rainbow decorations hang from tree branches, swaying and turning in the breeze. The art project started as Gillum’s creative way to reuse plastic lids. Now, it’s become her fundraising effort for Lawrence nonprofits.

Prior to the pandemic, Gillum had only one rainbow string hanging from her tree. A mother of two, Gillum made it two years ago entirely of Play-Doh lids. When quarantine began, Gillum, who collects colorful plastic lids and other items, started making more.

“When I first started making them, my main focus was I liked the idea of keeping the lids out of the landfill. I’ve heard mixed things about if lids can be recycled or not,” Gillum said. “And so I thought, ‘This is a way to guarantee it’s not in the landfill.'”

But when neighbors and passersby began to take note of the colorful decorations in her yard, Gillum found herself with an interested client base.

“I felt silly selling them,” Gillum said. “But then with everything going on in the world and people definitely needing more support, I started thinking about all of the nonprofits around town that are hurting.”

photo by: Lauren Fox

Sara Gillum made her first rainbow tree decoration entirely out of Play-Doh lids.

Gillum now sells her rainbow decorations for $10, and donates all the money to local organizations. So far, she has donated $100 each to the Lawrence Mutual Aid Network, Ladybird Diner, One Hundred Good Women and the “Summer Fun for Shelter Kids” Fundraiser, a collection for kids who had recently been at the Lawrence Community Shelter and were in need of summer toys and supplies.

Though Gillum feels “silly” selling “what would essentially be trash hanging on a tree,” she said her father reminded her that it is “organized trash.” The rainbow decorations also bring people joy, Gillum believes.

“On a breezy day, it’s almost the same feeling as watching an aquarium,” Gillum said. “Sometimes they start up spinning and swaying at different rates. They make me happy when I look at them and I think they make other people happy too.”

Her rainbow decorations have cropped up in trees around Lawrence, and one has even gone to a home in Kansas City, she said. The Koffee Korner inside LMH Health has supplied Gillum with lids, and the director of the Lawrence Community Nursery School purchased two decorations for the school. One customer who bought four decorations told Gillum that she was going to “rainbow bomb” her friends by surprising them with the colorful creations in their yards.

photo by: Sara Gillum

Rainbow tree decorations are hanging in multiple yards in Lawrence, including this one, which belongs to a family member of the rainbow decoration creator, Sara Gillum.

Gillum said she chose to do a rainbow design because she’s always loved rainbows — “I always say rainbow is my favorite color.” She also appreciates that the decorations fit well for the month of June.

“Right now, it coincides with Pride Month, which I find lovely,” she said.

Gillum said creating the rainbow decorations has been a good way for her to spend her newfound free time during the pandemic, but she sometimes runs out of certain colors, specifically purple, orange and yellow. For those with collections of colorful lids or other plastics, Gillum can be reached on Facebook via her page for the project: Rainbow Strings for the Lawrence Community.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Sara Gillum has been making rainbow tree decorations during the pandemic and donating the funds from her sales to nonprofits in Lawrence.

photo by: Lauren Fox

Sara Gillum’s rainbow tree decorations are made of colorful plastic items like lids, Easter eggs, spray bottle tops and more.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.