Festival of Trees raises money for a good cause

Executive Director Antoine Wright, Santa and volunteers gather in front of the donation tree. Photo by Oriana Plummer

The annual Festival of Trees celebration and fundraising event was held Saturday at Goodwood Museum & Gardens. It began with an exclusive ticketed VIP brunch followed by the free general public preview of the trees and wreaths.

Visitors also had an opportunity to bid on decorated trees and wreaths and enjoy cookies and cocoa with Santa.

Visitors stand in line to receive hot cocoa. Photo by Oriana Plummer

The event is dedicated to providing a fun filled Christmas celebratory event while receiving donations based on bidding for trees and wreaths that were provided by members of the community.

All of the proceeds went to Big Bend Habitat for Humanity and its efforts to build affordable homes for the residents of Leon and Gadsden counties.

Holiday spirited trees and wreaths ranging from small to large were donated from several businesses and organizations including the Nation Association of Women in Construction, Marshay’s Catering, Talquin Electric Cooperative and more.

While all donations were accepted, some bids were as high as $600 for just one tree.

The VIP brunch was catered by celebrity Chef Shac and music was provided by Fire 116 Entertainment. Brunch attendees were afforded the first opportunity to preview and bid on the beautiful trees and wreaths with an opportunity to mingle and enjoy delectable cuisine and holiday music.

Donation tree with assorted donation cards representing the dollar amounts donated at Festival of Trees. Photo by Oriana Plummer

Local community members and families were delighted to be provided with this experience once the festival opened up to the general public, considering its absence in 2020 amid the pandemic.

“All of the trees are artistic, they are all well prepared. There’s great music and kind people. My wife and I have been coming for a while. We remember back when it was downtown,” visitor Maurizio Bertoldi said.

Event organizers and volunteers gathered to begin setting up as early as 6 a.m. The mid-day event took extensive planning and labor but didn’t cause organizers to lose sight of the event’s purpose.

“Of course we appreciate the donations because it helps us build homes but it’s also the education, information and outreach we’re able to do when helping families achieve homeownership, ” said Jevelle Robinson, program manager for Big Bend Habitat for Humanity.

Robinson says the signature holiday fundraiser event “kicks off the joy that a lot of people experience coming into the holiday season.”

“The more donations we collect, the more houses we build and families we can help,” said Antoine Wright, executive director of Big Bend Habitat for Humanity.

Wright says the 12th annual Festival of Trees has accumulated $20,000 in donations and plans to keep up the momentum for years to come.

Many members of Big Bend Habitat for Humanity attended the event.

“It takes many people to make events successful. It takes the love we have for our community. It’s very important for all of us to be hands on. I love it because that’s me and that’s Habitat for Humanity,”  Maicel Green board chair at Big Bend Habitat for Humanity, said.

Green said she loves the joy on kids’ faces as she passes Santa hats out to children at the event.

“The trees bring such life and joy. The people that have donated put so much love and care into these decorations, each of them has a message and that’s awesome,” Green said.