Festivals of Trees brighten season, raise funds for charities
CAPITAL REGION Beautifully decorated Christmas trees will be on display this holiday season at festival events throughout the Capital Region.
Each tree event raises money for a different nonprofit organization or charity as well as helping to usher in the holiday season.
“It’s not just a fundraiser but also a friend raiser and kind of the opening of the holiday season,” said Sister Charla Commins, executive director of Catholic Charities of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties.
The 15th annual Saratoga Festival of Trees, sponsored by Catholic Charities, will be held in the newly renovated Saratoga Springs City Center on Broadway starting on Dec. 1 with a preview reception from 6 to 8 p.m.
Commins said 250 decorated trees, holiday centerpieces and wreaths will be on display from Dec. 1 through Dec. 5 in the new wing of the city center, which has large windows facing Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs.
“This is the major fundraiser for Catholic Charities for the year,” she said. A volunteer staff of approximately 200 people has been working on the project for months. Corporate sponsors have again been generous, she said.
The Dec. 1 preview reception costs $60 per person but these guests will have the first pick of the trees and other decorations.
“We sell a lot that night,” Commins said. Even though a person may purchase a fully decorated tree on the first night of the festival, the tree remains at the City Center until the festival is over on the evening of Dec. 5.
Commins said the money raised from the sale of trees, and from the popular Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 4, provides discretionary funds for the many Catholic Charity programs like its mentoring program for young people, family counseling and helping needy people with a basics of life. Breakfast with Santa will have three seatings at $8 per person starting at 8 a.m.
She said the sluggish economy over the past two years has made it more difficult for nonprofit organizations to raise the money they need to serve their clients in the community.
The Schenectady County Historical Society, the YWCA of Northeastern New York and Umbrella of the Capital District are joining forces again this year for their fourth annual Festival of Trees.
This festival opened on Nov. 26 and run through Dec. 5 at both the Historical Society museum at 32 Washington Ave. in Schenectady and the YWCA next door at 44 Washington Ave.
Ryan D. Mahoney, the museum’s new curator, said more than 50 trees will be on display in the museum and YWCA’s main campus.
“They come from local businesses, from local nonprofits and some from families,” Mahoney said.
For example, the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Scotia will have its tree decorated with the theme of “Fantasy of Flight.”
The Albany Devils professional hockey team has a tree that has been decorated by young fans of the team. Mahoney said children attending Devils’ hockey games in Albany have been making holiday decorations at the Kids Zone during hockey games and these will decorate the Devils’ tree.
The Friends of Schoharie Crossing, the historic site, have decorated their tree with an Erie Canal history theme.
Mahoney said most of the money raised during the Schenectady Festival of Trees is raised through admission charged at the door. He added, however, that they also raffle off five or six of the trees during the festival.
Admission to the festival is $5 for adults and $2 for children between the ages of five and 12.
Mahoney said not just Christmas trees will be on display but also wreaths. Optimum Health Chiropractic on Albany Street in Schenectady has donated eight decorated holiday wreaths that will be raffled off during the festival to raise money.
Mahoney said more than 1,000 people attended last year’s Festival of Trees and they are hoping for more this holiday season.
“Enjoy holiday music, festive trees and community spirit in the heart of Schenectady’s historic Stockade,” says a statement about the festival.
Umbrella of the Capital District, a nonprofit charitable organization that helps senior citizens and disabled people remain in their homes, will also have Holiday Houses on display at the Schenectady festival and these will be raffled off along with the trees and wreathes.
WOMEN’S CLUB EVENT
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Women’s Club will also be holding its fourth annual Festival of Trees from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 3 through Dec. 5 at the Ballston Town Hall on Charlton Road.
The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 4. New this year is the opportunity to donate blood, with the American Red Cross Traveling Donor Center being at the Town Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day.
The theme of this festival, which charges no admission, is “Winter Wonderland.” Donations will be accepted for the club’s programs, which include a scholarship award, art and writing contests for high school students, and support to Helping Hands, Women’s Veterans Shelter, and Seeds for Peace.