By CHERIL VERNON
On Saturday, the Palestine Mall will be filled with sounds and sights of the holiday season, filled with close to 20 Christmas trees decorated with themes to represent several local organizations during the Dogwood Garden Club's annual Festival of Trees.
“This is just one more way our garden club is connecting with getting our community involved in beautifying our town. The Palestine Mall will once again be a true 'Festival of Trees' for all to come and see,” Dogwood Garden Club Festival of Trees Chairman Linda J. Brown told the Herald-Press. “We want to start your holiday season in awe.”
The public is invited to attend the event from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Palestine Mall. The event will include the viewing of the Christmas trees, free refreshments and local entertainment. At 2 p.m., Christmas carolers will perform under the direction of Luis Giron. Story Intermediate School's 4th and 5th Grade Dance Club students also will perform a few dances to holiday songs.
The Dogwood Garden Club will serve wassail and cookies to those in attendance. The club also will hold a bazaar throughout the day at the mall.
The garden club's fund-raising Christmas bazaar will include items for sale including homemade baked goods, desserts, jellies, arts and crafts and other items. Special items will include one-of-a-kind floral designs and Christmas potted plants. The money raised will help the club with its projects on local, district, state and national levels.
Organizations, clubs and entities participating this year by decorating a tree include: CASA of Trinity Valley; Anderson County Arts Council; Relay for Life; BARC, Anderson County Humane Society; Anderson County Master Gardeners; Cars of Palestine; Palestine High School Alumni Association; NAACP; Anderson County Texas Democratic Women; Keep Elkhart Beautiful; Xi Nu Beta; Lakeview Methodist Conference Center; Christian Heritage Academy; Palestine Noon Lions Club; Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS); Refuge of Light; and Pionette Garden Club.
“The members of these organizations have been busy using their imagination, creativity and general know-how for this competition,” Brown said.
This year, the judging process will be different. Texas Garden Club Inc. accredited flower show judges will be judging the competition on Saturday. Ben E. Keith Beers has underwritten the cash prizes for first-, second- and third-place Festival of Trees winners. First place will win $750, with second winning $500 and third place winning $250.
The trees will be displayed throughout the holiday season for the enjoyment of the public.
Here is a little information about the organizations participating in the Festival of Trees:
• MOPS of Palestine — Mothers of Preschoolers is an international organization that strives to serve young moms in our community. Anyone that is pregnant or has a child age 0 to 5 is welcome to join. MOPS of Palestine meets on the first Wednesday of the month from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Palestine. The group enjoys friendship, fellowship and the common bond of motherhood. The theme for the MOPS tree is “A Celebration of Being a Mom.”
• BARC, The Humane Society — As you view BARC, The Humane Society's tree, you will see cards placed on the tree that depict animals that have found their forever homes. Other animals are searching and longing for their own homes. A short story to the right of the tree tells the story from the animal's point of view. On the left of the tree, you will see the happiness brought to the adopted pet. On the right is a lonely dog that is waiting for his “forever home.”
• Cars of Palestine — The theme of the Cars of Palestine Christmas tree is “Life is a Highway.” It shows the highlights in the past year of Cars of Palestine. All of the decorations are handcrafted from automotive-related items, spark plugs, gaskets, hose clamps and reflectors. The tree skirt is made from windshield shades, gaskets and reflectors. The only non-automotive item is the angel tree at the top and it depicts the organization's participation in the first annual Festival of Trees. The pictures, which are framed in gaskets, show the fun times as well as the organizations Cars of Palestine has donated to and community events it has participated in.
• Anderson County Texas Democratic Women — The Anderson County Texas Democratic Women's tree focuses on patriotism, featuring the symbolic red, white and blue colors along with various significant patriotic symbols. A special focus includes pictures of outstanding Texas Democratic women.
• Pionette Garden Club — Pionette Garden Club was federated in 1953 by the National Garden Club and the Texas Garden Club. Pionette's tree is decorated to depict Texas and the flowers that are grown in East Texas sandy soil. This also goes along with their theme “Show What You Grow” for the District III and the Pionette Garden Club theme “Enjoy What We Grow.” “We want the community to enjoy the beauty of the these flowers that represent the live flowers that we are able to grow in our own yards,” a Pionette Garden Club news release said. “This is a non-traditional tree to encourage others to enjoy the freedom to create a new tradition for their home or tree.”
• Palestine High School Alumni Association — The mission of the Palestine High School Alumni Association is to support the students, faculty and administration to further strengthen the educational accomplishments of Palestine Independent School District. As of Oct. 12, PHSAA has given more than $20,000 in scholarships and honorariums to graduating seniors and PISD teachers since its inception on Jan. 22, 2008. To become a member and join in the effort, go to www.palestinehigh.com or send mail to PHSAA, P.O. Box 3406, Palestine, Texas, 75802-3406. Many alumni were instrumental in making decorations and the memories filled the minds of many individuals who were working on this tree. Some of the decorations were handmade by students throughout the PISD schools. The decorations depict their theme “Memories.” The Arc Light book covers, the athletics, the KitKats drill team, Who's Who, class favorites along with the diploma and cap are what many memories are made of. “Walk down memory lane with us as we capture our youth again,” a PHSAA news release said.
• Xi Nu Beta — Xi Nu Beta is a local chapter of Beta Sigma Phi, a cultural and social organization that incorporates service as part of its activities. The Beta Sigma Phi motto is “Life, Learning and Friendship.” Theme for this year is “Light Up Your Life.” To reflect the motto and theme, the organization has a Beta Sigma Phi torch at the top of its tree with 12 angels placed on the tree to represent its current membership number. The dogwood blossoms not only represent the city, but the many Dogwood Trails events the group has participated in through the years to support its service activities. The Christmas balls represent “Lighting Up Your Life” through the history of the community and the many locations the group loves and supports. “We trust our tree truly shined a light through your soul. Merry Christmas,” a Xi Nu Beta news release said.
• CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates is a volunteer organization that helps children that have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect. The volunteers have to like kids in order to work effectively with and for them...in fact, the volunteers have to be “wild about kids” in order to serve the children of Anderson County. The ornaments were made by a volunteer who owns a printing shop. There are 108 ornaments on the tree representing the children the organization has served just since September. “The volunteers spent time lovingly placing each ornament in just the right place!” a CASA news release said.
• Anderson County Master Gardeners — Anderson County Master Gardeners give back to the community in several ways. Some of the organization's current projects include providing plants for the interior of the mall (soon to be installed), the Grow Your Own Garden program (helping people grow vegetables), the Lynn O'Daniel Lecture series (free gardening programs) and providing plants for the new Woman's Health Center. The next class for beginning master gardeners will begin in January. Register at the Federal Building at 101 E. Oak St. in Palestine. This is the organization's only fund-raiser. Tree sales are held in the spring. On the Christmas tree, the ornaments were made with burlap, seeds and seed packets, flower pots, gardening tools and watering can.
• Anderson County Arts Council — The purpose for which the Anderson County Arts Council is formed are as follows: To promote the cultural, educational and economic growth of Anderson County through development of its arts and cultural heritage; to make the arts more accessible to all of Anderson County; to expand access to quality arts education for young people; to participate in local and regional economic development; to preserver and promote cultural heritage; to assist and encourage artists and art organizations; strengthen the financial stability of the arts industry; recognize diversity and inclusiveness; recognize diversity and inclusiveness; and to encourage artistic excellence and support freedom of artistic expression. The ACAC's Christmas tree depicts “The Arts” visual arts painting. The tree is being used as the “canvas” and the ornaments are the “arts.” All ornaments are being hand-painted by local artists.
• Christian Heritage Academy — Christian Heritage Academy is a school which meets the academic needs of children in grades K-6. CHA's purpose is to provide superior education in a Christian environment. The school has been in existence over the last 11 years and is equipped with highly experienced certified teachers, providing a fun and challenging educational opportunity. CHA operates as a non-denominational educational ministry of Southside Baptist Church. Their theme is “Christmas through the eyes and hands of children.”
• NAACP — The NAACP was formed in 1909 by a multi-racial group as a civil rights non-profit organization established with the objective of ensuring the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority groups. The NAACP has as its mission the goal of eliminating all barriers of racial discrimination through the democratic process.
• Palestine Lions Club — The Palestine Lions Club has been serving in Palestine since 1923. Lions all over the world are involved in many sight programs today because Helen Keller challenged Lions to become Knights of the Blind at the 1925 International Convention. The colors for Lions International were originally purple and gold. These stood for loyalty, integrity and purity. Recently, Lions have changed one of its colors from purple to blue. Blue stands for justice. The emblem, a two-faced Lion that faces both left and right symbolizes the Lion's proud past and a prosperous future. The lion stands for courage, strength, activity and fidelity. For the Lions Club's decorations, the club chose to incorporate eyeglasses as a symbol of the organization's acceptance of the challenge to become Knights of the Blind. The colors purple, blue and gold represent the club's beliefs and the changes it has gone through in 90 years, and Lion figurines.
• Relay for Life — For the 2013 Festival of Trees, Anderson County Relay for Life chose to represent the event through pictures. The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life is an overnight fundraiser for cancer research. Each year in Anderson County more than 300 people participate in the event with the addition of more than 100 cancer survivors. There are pictures on the tree of cancer survivors receiving their survivor medals, teams at their campsites and participants having fun! “We chose an angel that lights in different colors to represent the different color of cancer awareness ribbons. We chose the purple colors because that is the color for overall cancer awareness. We have presents wrapped under the tree because one day we hope that we can give the gift of a cure,” a Relay for Life news release said.
• Refuge of Light — Refuge of Light is a faith-based, non-profit organization dedicated to providing a safe home for domestic minor sex-trafficked girls through prevention, rescue and restoration. The Refuge of Light Christmas tree depicts darkness to light, transforming the broken life to the brilliant life. The black at the base of the branches represent the darkness of this horrific crime against children. The shoes represent the lifestyle that they are forced into. The black decorations represent the heartbreaking numbers of this crime. The ribbons, ornaments and churches represent the faith-based community providing support for healing and restoration. The birds and butterflies represent freedom and the snowflakes are the faces of these children restored. The base of the tree represents the light pushing back the darkness. The angel at the top represents a messengers of God watching over these girls until they are safe. According to statistics, 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked in the United States, with 8,000 to 24,000 children at risk in Texas. One out of three juvenile runaways are lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving or losing their homes. The average age for American children to be trafficked is 12 to 13 years old. The average life expectancy of a child that is being trafficked is seven years.
• Lakeview Methodist Conference Center — Lakeview Methodist Conference Center is a full-service conference and retreat center that offers clean and simple accommodations and all of the facilities needed for a memorable week at camp or a weekend retreat. Lakeview is located on 1,300 acres, 10 miles outside of Palestine. It is nestled in the Piney Woods and has an abundance of native wildlife and birds. The Christmas tree is representative of the wildlife and foliage enjoyed at Lakeview every day. It incorporates birds, nests, holly berries, magnolia leaves and pine cones. “Lakeview has opted to not light the tree this year. We feel God's light is the shining light that burns with in all of us, and guides the way for all God's creatures,” a Lakeview news release said. “We hope you enjoy the tree and have a blessed Christmas.”
• Keep Elkhart Beautiful — Keep Elkhart Beautiful is reuse, recycle and repurpose, so that the community stays clean. For its Christmas tree, the organization used paper towel rolls, soda cans, plastic bottles and leftovers. Ribbon and ornaments were purchased after the season at little cost. Everything else was given to the organization (including the tree), to be reused and recycled. A little money was spent on paint so that the ornaments would match. “We did include the 'trash' on once side of the tree that we see everyday on the side of the road that is thrown out of car windows, trying to show there are uses for that trash, other than littering our community roads and highways,” a Keep Elkhart Beautiful news release said.