This year’s Chemainus Festival of Trees, hosted by the Chemainus Gardens, is being hailed as a huge success.
The festival, which is a nearly-month-long fundraiser for the food bank, generated $3,101 through tree sponsorship, a silent auction and public donations in its third year, and Len Wansbrough of Chemainus Gardens donated an additional $1,500.
On Dec. 21, festival co-ordinator Margaret Perry presented a cheque for $4,601 to the Chemainus Harvest House Food Bank.
“We thank all those who helped raise the bar on this year’s donations by more than $700,” she said.
Rick O’Doherty, vice-president of Harvest House, says a donation like this makes a huge difference because Harvest House can use this money to buy more food; they often get a better price because they are a food bank, and they can often get food at wholesale prices.
Harvest House serves roughly 300 people in Chemainus and Crofton each week.
“As you can imagine, January, February and March are the most difficult time for food banks,” said O’Doherty.
“We’re like squirrels; we need to benefit from the generosity at Christmas and keep that going. Christmas may come and go, but the food bank is every week.”
Thirty-five people regularly volunteer at Harvest House, and O’Doherty says the big difference between Harvest House and other food banks is the frequency by which they give out food, as some food banks are only bi-weekly, but Harvest House is weekly.
“There definitely is a need,” he said. “Not only are we seeing people who are hungry, but also people who don’t make enough money to make it to the end of their paycheque. Chemainus has been absolutely an excellent community, for such a small community to support us like this, and it’s because of events like this. Everybody supports it.”
As the festival wound down, Perry also announced the winners of the tree decorating and the poetry contest.
This year, Crystal Hanson, head of wardrobe at the Chemainus Theatre Festival, was the tree judge.
She chose the rustic Aerial Tree Service tree as the first-place tree, while Ladysmith and District Credit Union’s cheery tree took second place. The tree decorated by the Girl Guides of Canada Chemainus and Crofton units won the People’s Choice award.
Writer and poet Susan Martin from The Book Nook in Chemainus judged the poetry contest, and she says there were many great entries this year. The theme this year was “My Christmas Wish.”
The winners were 14-year-old Anjilee Manhas, 12-year-old Hannah Dumez and nine-year-old Grace Lavigne.
During the festival finale, Perry gave special thanks to everyone who volunteered their time during the Festival of Trees, including judges Crystal Hanson and Susan Martin, to Phillip, the puppeteer from Cherry Tree Early Education; Simon from Crafty Cuppa; photographers Art and Daphne Carlyle who donated their time to take photos; all the volunteers; all the choirs and musicians who donated their time to perform; and Linda Kelly from Chemainus Gardens, who took care of everything office-related.
Kelly wouldn’t let Perry go without praise.
“She does a fabulous job, and each year, it’s bigger and better,” she said.
Kelly says the Festival of Trees might move to a new venue that is closer to town next year, but that is still up in the air.