Mercy Foundation North’s Festival of Trees
● By Jon Lewis
By Jon Lewis
Photo courtesy of Mercy Foundation North
The tinsel and twinkly lights announce the Christmas holiday, but the season of giving celebrated at Mercy Foundation North’s Festival of Trees lasts throughout the year.
That’s because the event is the principal fundraiser for Mercy Hospice services in Tehama, Shasta and southern Siskiyou counties. Money raised at the Festival of Trees – organizers set a goal of $100,000 this year – will help hospice nurses and volunteers continue to provide comfort and care each year to an average of 1,150 patients, and their families, who are dealing with a life-limiting illness or injury.
Front and center at the event are the 15 namesake trees that have been trimmed by North State artists and decorators and displayed at Turtle Bay Museum as part of a dazzling winter wonderland scene.
Each tree is sponsored, and after the party, they serve as festive holiday adornments for the sponsors’ home or business. Several of the trees are generously used to brighten the holidays at retirement homes and nonprofit organizations like Shasta Senior Nutrition Program and One SAFE Place.
“For the most part, these 15 trees are put in very visible places. In January, we pick up the trees and store them, along with the decorations that can be stored,” says Michelle Martin Streeby, Mercy Foundation North’s senior development officer. “Our sponsors love this; they don’t have to do anything but enjoy themselves.”
The decorated trees are among many touches that set the fundraiser apart, Streeby says. “We wanted to make it very different for the North State community. We don’t have a silent auction, we don’t have any bidding on the trees and we don’t have a raffle.
“We raise money through sponsors and ticket sales. People who believe in the foundation’s mission and the Sisters of Mercy give outright donations. By the time the event occurs, it’s just a beautiful party and a celebration of this work,” Streeby says.
The party itself is designed by Marlene Woodard and her A Planned Affair event planning business, which transforms the Turtle Bay Museum into a “stunning Christmas wonderland,” Streeby says. Distinctive touches usually include a horse-drawn carriage, carols performed by a bell choir and warm roasted nuts for arriving guests.
Inside, guests can retreat to a hot cocoa lounge, create a chocolaty treat at the s’mores bar or enjoy a signature cocktail created just for the event by mixologists from Market Street Steakhouse. Rather than a formal meal, guests are treated to heavy hors d’oeuvres crafted by Market Street’s chef, Wes Matthews.
“It’s very much a cocktail lounge feel,” Streeby says. “And we always have music. This year it’s a DJ because this group likes to dance.” Cocktail attire is recommended.
The dining and dancing is a festive way to support an important cause, says Maggie Redmon, president of Mercy Foundation North. “We believe it is important to increase awareness and support for this much-needed service that covers the entire North State,” she says. “Hospice touches and provides comfort to so many people in our community.”
Mercy Hospice has been such a tremendous help for Redding radio personality Billy Pilgrim that he spoke on its behalf at last year’s Festival of Trees. Hospice was a frequent part of his life in the past eight years after the passing of his brother, his sister and his father.
“I think they’re angels, I really do. They turned my world around,” says Pilgrim, who hosts the morning show on radio station Q97 with Patrick John. “I felt the presence of the Lord with them. I felt so connected to those people; they were so good to me and my family. They helped me interpret what I was seeing.
“I just think the world of them and it makes me think, if I ever retire, I would volunteer for Mercy Hospice. What they provide for people is way above and beyond the call of duty,” Pilgrim says.
Mercy Hospice became a part of Beth Birk’s life six years ago when the Dairyville resident’s husband was dying of cancer. Not only did hospice care make those final days bearable, Birk says she also benefitted from the grief counseling provided by Mercy Hospice.
Near the end of her time with Kristin Hoskins, the therapist asked Birk if she had ever thought about volunteering for hospice. “I said yes. Hospice just felt natural for me. I’m a talker,” Birk says. “I felt getting support from somebody was so important that I wanted to do that myself. I also changed my will and deeded my house and property to Mercy Foundation for the Red Bluff hospice office. This is an important thing for all of us to support.”
Redding Bank of Commerce is the primary sponsor of the Festival of Trees and Tammy Parker, a business development officer with the bank, is a member of the team that decorates a tree each year.
“It’s something we’re very proud to be a part of,” Parker says. “I take a lot of joy in doing this.” Supporting Mercy Hospice has always been a cause near to her heart, but it has taken on even more significance following the recent loss of a close friend to cancer.
“It’s such an emotional journey for everybody. You wonder how they do it. It just has to be exhausting. It is absolutely amazing,” she says of the comfort hospice care provides. “How people got through this without people like hospice care, I can’t even imagine.”
Saturday, Nov. 12, 7 to 10 pm Turtle Bay Museum • Tickets are $75 • (530) 247-3424 or visit www.supportmercynorth.org
For information on Mercy Hospice’s bereavement support programs, call (530) 245-4070 in Redding; (530) 528-4207 in Red Bluff, or (530) 926-6111 in Mount Shasta.