This time of year, Farmington, New Mexico, where I live, has an amazing event called Festival of Trees. During the event at the Farmington Civic Center, many local organizations, businesses, schools, and individuals decorate a tree or a wreath and donate it to the festival. They're all on display, this year from Nov. 29-Dec. 3.
For the last 20 years, the Festival of Trees has been a community-sponsored charitable benefit for Presbyterian Medical Services, a not-for-profit organization. PMS offers many services to the Farmington area community, including a health center, children's development services including such things as speech and occupational therapy and autism screenings, and free high-quality early education for children ages six weeks to five years.
Festival of Trees has been a part of Farmington for many decades. At one time, it benefited other organizations, but for the past 20 years, it has focused on helping PMS.
Many people, including a variety of organizations in the community, decorate a tree or wreath that they put on display during Festival of Trees. The trees sometimes include give-aways or gift cards.
Each tree or wreath is numbered and includes the name of the person, organization, service club, business, or school that created it. A barrel in front of each tree contains the number associated with that tree or wreath.
People come to the festival and buy tickets on which they put their name and phone numbers. They buy those tickets from a dedicated group of volunteers. The volunteers are cheerful, helpful and full of enthusiasm for an event they believe in. Many thousands of tickets are sold. Money from the tickets benefits PMS. Christmas ornaments and decorated shirts are also sold to raise money for PMS.
When people have filled out the information on the backs of their tickets, they drop the tickets in the barrels of the trees or wreaths they would like to win. On Sunday, Dec. 4, after the winning ticket from each barrel is drawn, the winner is notified by phone call. They must arrive promptly that afternoon to collect what they won at the civic center.
The festival is more than a way to raise money for PMS. It's also a place to meet friends and to participate in a different activity each day. Those activities include lunch with the trees, teddy bear story time, coffee break, senior citizen social, Santa's sleigh ride, and a platinum celebration that includes a prime rib dinner, dancing, and a special raffle.
Many people come to the festival. Sometimes they just drop raffle tickets into the barrels of the trees or wreaths they would like to win. Other times they participate in one or more of the activities. They all come with the desire to support their community.
What a wonderful way to celebrate the gift of giving at Christmas time!