Annual gala raises $31K for meal delivery, holiday charity programs

Festival of Trees Committee members recently delivered funds to representatives of the local meals on wheels program.

ONTARIO

Since its onset, COVID-19 has impacted so many things and forced everyone to do “what they do” totally different than the normal way of doing things. That was certainly true for the annual holiday fundraising event Festival of Trees.

As with everyone else, the Festival of Trees Committee hoped to be able to hold its event, which was canceled. However, committee members were still able to have a success story for their 2020 fundraiser.

“From the blessings of those who donated to and supported Festival of Trees, we were able to donate $30,600 to the Meals on Wheels Program and $3,400 to Help Them to Hope,” wrote Debbie Blackaby, chairwoman of the committee, in an email update.

This was especially important given that the annual gala fundraiser helps with about one-third of the annual operating budget for the local meals on wheels program.

Blackaby recalls concerns over whether they would be able to have the event at all.

“As plans were being made for the event, and up until the day before we were to begin set up, we would be restricted to 50 people which would include committee members. And while the restriction would be hard – we would make it work in order to provide funds to the programs that benefit from this event.”

Blackaby says the committee met on Friday prior to the event.

“We were going to count folks in and out in order to comply with the restrictions per Gov. Kate Brown,” she said. “We would require masks, and ask each person to apply hand sanitizer when entering the event and exiting the event. By 3 p.m. that afternoon, I was told we would now be limited to no more than 25 people in attendance and by 4 p.m. there would be no events!”

Undeterred by the changes, the committee me the next morning when work would typically be done on setting up the venue.

“We had already collected sponsorship monies, and had been hard at work preparing,” Blackaby said.

The most important issue was getting funds for the meals program, she said, as during the pandemic meal delivery had doubled and the waiting list grew to 30 people.

Other funds went to Help Them to Hope, which serves the less fortunate in our community by giving hope, gifts and food for the holiday season.

Following tears at the Saturday morning meeting before the annual gala, the committee members spurred into action.

“We had no back up plan but, to work we went,” she said, adding that they decided to put the decorated trees on social media to try to garner sales.

On the day they opened auctions, all 30 trees were sold by that evening, and by Sunday all but two wreaths and one centerpiece had been sold.

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