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Community support shines at 25th annual Festival of Trees

Story and photos by Sarah Law
The magic of Christmas overflowed at the silver anniversary of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary’s Festival of Trees this weekend, thanks to the dedication of hardworking volunteers.

The festival, held at the Isaiah Tubbs Resort and Conference Centre, featured a silent auction of nearly 200 trees and contributions from individuals, businesses and organizations, along with the auxiliary’s Christmas Boutique, bake sale and bucket draws. Live music and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus also brought Christmas cheer as funds were raised for a pediatric and neonatal monitor and other medical equipment for the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital.

It is expected the weekend will raise about $40,000 for the equipment – necessary for the care of babies and young children.

The auxiliary purchases the trees at a discount from Picton Home Hardware then puts the call out for people to decorate them for the silent auction. Members begin preparing the many preserves, jams, jellies during the spring and summer when crops are fresh. More volunteers fill the bake sale room with pies, tarts, cookies and other sweets.

“This is, truly, a community event that couldn’t happen without the collective co-operation of many groups and individuals,” said Pat Evans, PECMH Auxiliary President. “The auxiliary’s fantastic, hard-working volunteers make sure that this is a fun event that keeps everyone coming back year after year.”

Each tree or donation featured a unique theme, ranging from traditional ornaments to fun-filled themes such as The Golden Girls and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Volunteers from the Hospital Auxiliary were stationed throughout the resort, many of them returning annually for the festival.

“We’ve been coming year every year since probably 2005,” said Neil Sipkes, a volunteer at the silent auction whose wife was selling raffle tickets in another room. Sipkes says involvement “just seemed like the natural thing to do.”

“I just love looking at all the different designs of the trees. It’s a hoot what people do. I particularly like the piano bar this year; it gives a whole new meaning to the term,” he added.

Waltraud Jacobs came to the festival with a full bus of people from the Seniors Association in Kingston. She had never been to the festival before and said she was impressed by the creative displays and the scenery surrounding the resort.

The Christmas Boutique was organized by more than 60 volunteers from the Second Time Around store in Picton.

Pamela Strachan, the store’s full-time manager, said her favourite part is seeing people’s excitement when they find a bargain at the sale.

“We’ve got lots of everything here – clothing and goodies and toys and books and puzzles, so there’s a lot for everybody,” she said.

Strachan has been volunteering for 10 years. She began working at the store one day every two weeks before eventually becoming the manager, she said. The volunteers spend all year sorting items to sell at the festival.

The volunteers put in thousands of hours of time and energy every year.

Lynda Demille, another volunteer at the boutique, said the sale would not be such a success without the contributions made by people from all over the county.

“Everything that’s been donated is just absolutely wonderful. It’s beautiful stuff,” she said.

Demille has been helping out at the Second Time Around for five years. She said she wanted to stay busy in her retirement and enjoys the opportunities the job has given her.

“You meet such interesting people,” she said. “It’s such a happy place to be. Everybody comes in so happy looking for gifts, and they find (them). And they’re so excited about finding exactly what they wanted.”

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  1. Dee A says:

    Never miss this event ! My very favourite tree was the unique cabinet and dishware donated by
    County Traders….just loved it !!

  2. Ignazia Vella says:

    My grandson did an amazing job on the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it gives him a great pleasure to do this for the community he started last year with a Pokemon tree on plans to do it next year

  3. Pietrina S says:

    My 10 year old son Lucias and I did the Peanuts Tree,(charlie Brown),Was his Idea, and last year he did the Pokemon Tree. He already has a great idea for next year..

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