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19th Salvation Army Festival of Trees Auction Friday, December 10

One of the most enduring and venerable Christmas traditions is the decorated Christmas tree. It is part of most families’ and many businesses’ Christmastime experience. For the past 19 years, as an exciting and unique fundraiser, the Williamsport Salvation Army has held an annual Festival of Trees at the Lycoming Mall utilizing an auction of elaborately and richly decorated Christmas trees sponsored by area businesses. These trees are on display from now until December 10, when the trees will be auctioned off.

On November 21, more than 30 teams of “elves” from area businesses and organizations got to work decorating a small forest of trees, transforming Lycoming Mall’s Center Court into a winter wonderland for all to enjoy. With 36 trees now on display—each decorated in its own unique way—this event continues to delight both the young and young-at-heart.

“In addition to spreading Christmas cheer, the Festival of Trees is an important fundraiser for the many programs and services that The Salvation Army provides to thousands of people in our community year-round,” Major Sheryl Hershey, Corps Officer/Pastor, told Webb Weekly. In support of The Salvation Army, local businesses or organizations agree to sponsor a tree each year. Sponsors compete in not only showcasing their decorating creativity but also assembling an attractive incentive package to accompany each tree. This year’s incentives are wide-ranging, with something for everyone: toys, electronics, designer handbags, gift cards to more than 50 different area businesses and restaurants, vouchers for weekend getaways, and even $1,500 in free landscaping services! A detailed listing of all trees and incentives is available at the mall. The public can vote for their favorite tree ($1 = 1 vote) at the voting station adjacent to the mall’s tree display or by using storefront/countertop voting boxes hosted at some of the tree sponsors’ locations. The sponsor whose tree receives the most votes will receive a “People’s Choice” award as part of the 2021 Festival of Trees.

But this voting process is only the first phase of the event. If you’d like to own one of the trees, win accompanying incentives (either for yourself or as gifts for others this holiday season) — while also giving to The Salvation Army — mark your calendars for the Festival of Trees live auction on December 10. Hosted by Michael T. Roan, Auctioneer, the auction will begin promptly at 7 p.m. in the former PacSun storefront near Lycoming Mall Center Court, diagonal from Burlington. Registration will begin around 6 p.m., so plan to come early, take a last look at the trees before placing your bids, and enjoy all the festivities. After the auction concludes, The Salvation Army will also recognize the tree/sponsor that raises the most money overall with the “Best of the Festival” award.

“Last year we had the best buying crowd but a low number of trees 25. We hope to have the good buying crowd back this year since we now have 36 trees,” said Mike Roan, who will be handling the auctioneer’s chores again as he has in other years.

“This event would not be successful without the extraordinary efforts and generosity of so many in our community — including Mike Roan Real Estate, The Lycoming Mall, and Backyard Broadcasting,” said Laura Templeton, Salvation Army Public Relations and Resource Development Director. “In addition, this year, PA Skill by Miele Manufacturing not only sponsored one of the trees but also came forward and blessed The Salvation Army with an additional donation that will more than offset any event-related costs. And even in the face of current supply chain issues and inflation, District and local Big Lots management performed a veritable Christmas miracle for The Salvation Army by helping them obtain more than 20 trees needed for the event at or below pre-pandemic prices. “Finally, my sincere thanks to Mike Roan, Pat Mraz, Deanna and Alan Miller, and Angela Grieco,” added Templeton. They are the core ‘dream team’ committee behind planning this event and making it go — from start to finish.”

The Salvation Army of Williamsport, through its programs and services, helps meet the physical, educational, social, and spiritual needs of thousands of children, adults, families, and seniors in our community each year. The Williamsport Corps operates/provides a food pantry, clothing, and furniture vouchers, rent and utility assistance (grant-dependent), school supplies, Christmas food and toy assistance, youth and music programs, summer camps, Golden Agers/Friendship Club, Women’s Home League, emergency disaster services, the Red Shield Community Garden, a thrift store, weekly Sunday school and worship services, and more.