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Festival of Trees returns to Gardner Museum.

Byline: Amanda Roberge

GARDNER -- Now in its ninth year, the Gardner Museum's Festival of Trees has doubled in size if you are counting items up for raffle -- in its first year, 60 trees, wreaths and donations were on display. This year, that number has risen to 118 and includes everything from gift baskets to dollhouses.

But if you consider the impact it has had on the community, the effect cannot be calculated.

With donations from many community organizations, from schools to health care organizations to assisted living centers, the festival has become a way for anyone and everyone in the city to come together in the spirit of the holidays.

More than 3,000 people will visit the display at the museum during the three weeks before winners are announced.

Chairperson Janet Stankaitis said the effort is a labor of love that takes nearly an entire year to pull off, but that the effort is well worth it when she can stand back and see how happy people are to participate.

Not surprisingly, for many, the holidays have not officially begun until the museum opens its doors for the festival.

"It keeps getting bigger and better each year,'' she said at an opening gala on Nov. 13. "It really is wonderful to be a part of.''

This year, involvement has transcended state lines, she said -- with six items donated from individuals and businesses outside of Massachusetts.

"Generally what happens is that people come to see the festival and decide that they would love to donate something next time,'' she said of how the event continues to grow, with little more pavement-pounding than letters, reminders and lots of elbow grease to coordinate the logistics.

A donation from the Rotary Club allows organizers to purchase trees that they can distribute to schools so that, through art and enrichment programs, the students can work to beautify the tree with handmade ornaments.

Heywood Hospital joined the lineup of corporate sponsors this year, all of which have been loyal from the beginning.

"We are so glad to have the hospital on board, since they are one of the largest employers in town and it means a lot to have their support,'' said Ms. Stankaitis.

In addition to a number of community organizations who recruit their own workers to donate and assemble beautiful trees, many individuals, families and couples have donated items that honor or commemorate a loved one.

As many items are created and donated in the name of fun, like a "Cute as a Button Tree,'' a tree devoted entirely to gingerbread men, and another called "Christmas Cooking,'' which is dripping with cookie cutters, tea bags and scented candles.

The event serves as the primary fundraiser for the museum, along with supplemental private donations throughout the year. Without the significant generosity and involvement from the community, said Ms. Stankaitis, the rich history of Gardner would be lost for generations to come.

The event also offers the chance to win three beautifully hand-crafted dollhouses that are furnished with miniature vignettes throughout the rooms. Tickets for the dollhouse raffle are sold separately from the other items, and cost $1 each or six for $5. Regular raffle tickets cost $5 for a sheet of 25.

The festival will also host a visit with Santa at the museum, 28 Pearl St., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 30. Viewing hours are held from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 1 to 7 p.m. on Fridays Weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The raffle drawing will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 7.

To learn more, call (978) 632-3277 or visit www.gardnermuseuminc.com.
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Title Annotation:Weeklies
Author:Roberge, Amanda
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 22, 2013
Words:618
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