The phone rang constantly Wednesday at the headquarters of the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls on Church Street as workers organized the largest-ever Festival of Trees.
Local schools, organizations, businesses and families have decorated 90 Christmas trees to be sold for the organization’s annual fundraiser, United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy said. Last year, 82 trees were displayed, and the number has increased each year since the event began five years ago, Shappy said.
More people are impressed every year with the forest of trees adorned in different themes and decide to participate the following year, Shappy said. Parents and teachers often involve their families and students in decorating the trees.
“I think there’s more people hearing about it,” Shappy said. “It’s a great classroom project and it brings people together.”
The trees are being set up at the Naugatuck Savings Bank at 87 Church St., where the festival will kick off Friday evening with a reception, which includes a silent auction of some of the trees. The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and lasts two hours.
A $20 admission fee includes light refreshments, and proceeds from the event will contribute to the United Way’s campaign to raise $415,000 for area charities by the end of the year.
The public can view the remaining trees free of charge and buy raffle tickets for specific trees next week during banking hours.
The drawing will be held Dec. 9, with proceeds to benefit the United Way’s campaign.
During the borough’s Monday evening tree lighting ceremony, the display will remain open as a stop on the hay rides.
The United Way typically makes between $6,000 and $9,000 from the fundraiser and expects the same this year, Shappy said.
The display includes pamphlets and information about the United Way.
“It’s also an opportunity for people to come in and see who we are and what we’re doing and why we’re here,” Shappy said. “Some of our own community people don’t realize there are resources here in town to help them.”
For many, the best part of the festival lies in the creative ways trees are decorated. Shappy and her sister are hanging “K-Cups” of coffee and tea from their tree’s branches. The United Way’s board of directors chipped in to auction off a tree laden with gift cards. People decorate trees with birds, sports memorabilia and beauty products, as well as more traditional holiday themes.
“Some of them are very beautiful, and they put a lot of work into it,” Shappy said.
Deputy Fire Chief Ellen Murray decorated the fire department’s tree with teddy bear ornaments sporting “Smokey” hats and duct-tape shovels, fashioning tiny buckets of blue cotton “water” for the remaining branches.
“I’ve never been involved in something like this before, and I think it’s a great cause,” Murray said. “I can’t wait to see all the other trees.”