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A Christmas festival to remember

Holiday event raises money for local hospice

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

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Staff photos by SARA K. TAYLOR
Lisa Reed of Waldorf puts the finishing touches on her family's "Christmas in Aspen" tree. The Reed-Ellis-Lundin family has decorated a tree for the festival for more than 10 years.

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A forest of tiny prelit Christmas trees await decorations at the Jaycees center in Waldorf.

Every Sunday before Thanksgiving John Ellis of La Plata and Carly Lundin of Lusby know what they'll be doing.

Siblings in a blended family, the two help parents Lisa and Charles Reed decorate a Christmas tree for Hospice of Charles County's Festival of Trees. The family has been participating in the event since the early 1990s, if Lisa remembers correctly. And with years of experience under their belts, the family will start collecting ornaments for next year's festival almost immediately.

"We like a theme and we stick to it," said Charles, adding that this year the family went with "Christmas in Aspen" as its entry for the "Holiday to Remember" event. "If you're going to Aspen, you'll definitely remember it."

The topper of vintage skis and poles was purchased from eBay, they picked up other decorations here and there — many not intended to be tree decorations in the first place. Not that the group would likely run out of decorations anytime soon.

"Anything we find, we buy 20 of them," Charles said.

"I could probably decorate six more trees out of my attic," said Lisa, an oncology nurse who supports hospice's mission to offer quality care to terminal patients.

When members of the Nu Zeta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority volunteer to decorate a tree — as the group has since the 1990s — chapter president Miriam Matthews-Clark knows just the members to tap for the project.

She selects the artists of the group — Brenda Chase and Natalie Hart — to adorn the sorority's entry with its signature colors of pink and green.

With the help of Clark's teenage daughter, Kira, and member Sharon Vand, the tree was coming together.

"We make sure the artists are the ones in charge," said Matthews-Clark, who did her part by handing strung ornaments to the decorators.

Chase said she has volunteered and worked with hospice in the past and will soon start volunteering again as her family leaned on hospice to care for her late grandfathers and other family members. In addition to personal reasons among its members, Matthews-Clark said one of the group's initiatives has to do with promoting good health, including participating in Relay for Life and Race for the Cure.

Leigh Ann Keller, tree decorator chairwoman for the Festival of Trees fundraiser, is slated to help work on about six trees and three wreaths for the event.

The entry "Angels on High" featuring musical instruments and angel ornaments is entered for Keller's business, Travel Leaders. With the help of volunteers Donna Martin, a travel agency employee, and Martin's friend, Ellen Diffenbaugh, gold netting was woven into the trees branches.

Keller, coming off the heels of hospice's inaugural Oktoberfest, said the next few years are critical fundraising years for the organization. With the hospice house under construction in Waldorf, volunteers are plugging along.

"It's a challenge to have two big back-to-back events but we're already making plans for next year," she said. "We have to step it up."


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