In the community

Festival of trees wraps up, raises money for local seniors and families

ONTARIO —The Festival of Trees ended its three-day run at the Four Rivers Cultural Center Saturday, Nov. 19. 

The holiday event, one of the biggest in Malheur County, featured decorated trees, centerpieces and wreaths for sale, with 75 percent of the proceeds going to local charities, Meals on Wheels and Help Them to Hope. 

Organizer Debbie Blackaby said there was no total yet on how much money was raised. The event had 42 trees that each sold from $300 up to $1,300.

“It was a successful year,” Blackaby said in a Wednesday, Nov. 23 text message, “and we are looking forward to our final numbers.” 

Blackaby said that most of the comments she heard from the attendees were that this year’s trees were the prettiest yet. 

This year’s major sponsors included Marshalls, Norco, Kenworth Sales, Simplot, Weedology, Dutch Bros and Zions Cannabis. 

Blackaby said other local sponsors contributed as well.

Blackaby said the festival accounts for about one-third of the annual budget for Meals on Wheels and is the organization’s sole fundraiser of the year. 

Meals on Wheels provides home-delivered meals to elderly homebound residents over 60. In addition, Help Them to Hope delivers food, clothing and toys to needy families during the holidays. 

The Festival of Trees, Blackaby said, is the one time of the year for people to show their support for the aging population in Malheur County. 

Blackaby said the seniors tend not to raise their hand and ask for help, which, she said, makes it easy to forget that they are struggling after the worst of the pandemic. 

“We kind of forget about them,” Blackaby said. “Children are always at the forefront of our minds, yet the aging population still needs help.”  

Blackaby pointed out that the senior population in Malheur County is primarily shut in at their homes and alone. 

“(Seniors) helped raise us,” she said. “Now it’s our turn to watch out for them and make sure they’re being cared for.”

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $7.50 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.