The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 1, 2013

United Way seeking tree sponsors

By Carra Higgins
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Minds might be more focused on cooling off at the lake during these hot summer days, but you might also start thinking about the United Way of Southern West Virginia’s fifth annual Wonderland of Trees as a way to get creative and give back.

The Wonderland of Trees at Lewis Automotive opens to the public Nov. 8, but it’s already time to secure tree sponsorships and have some fun thinking about decorating and tree themes.

Approximately 10 7-1/2-foot trees have already been sponsored, and because the number of tree sponsorships is limited, Margaret Ann O’Neal, executive director of the United Way, says reservations should be made soon. Trees will need to be set up and ready to decorate at noon Nov. 4 and be finished by noon Nov. 7.

O’Neal explained some businesses and organizations use the summer months to collect decorations and let imaginations run wild by thinking about how a tree should be decorated. She said one business’ employees have taken a road trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., to buy ornaments.

“People have really gotten into the fun of planning,” O’Neal says about tree sponsors and decorators.

The trees also provide an extra opportunity for sponsors to increase the value of the tree in order to help raise more money for the United Way. For example, gift cards or promotional items can be added to the trees. Sponsorship signage will be prominently displayed with the tree, and business and organization names will be used in Wonderland of Trees promotion materials.

Sponsorship costs are $125 for a 7-1/2-foot tree, $75 for a 2-foot tree, and $50 for a wreath; payment options can be arranged.

Keeping with tradition, the 7-1/2-foot trees will go to the highest bidder during the live auction, the wreaths will be silently auctioned and the two-foot trees will be available at a “buy it now” price.

In addition to the trees, high bid winners of the large trees will have the opportunity to win an extra special prize at the end of the auction. O’Neal said the prize will be new to the auction this year and reminds bidders that they do not have to take home the tree. Some high bidders choose to give their winning tree to an organization supported by the United Way or a family in need of a Christmas tree.

Also, schools, churches and other organizations are invited to sing and perform during the two weeks that the trees are on public display at Lewis Automotive. Those interested in doing so should contact the United Way to schedule a performance date.

Prior to the Wonderland of Trees, the United Way will host at Crossroads Mall a “Miss Wonderland of Trees” pageant in October. The winner will serve as the host of the November auction and receive an educational scholarship. Further details about the pageant are being arranged, but anyone interested in sponsorship or more information should contact the United Way.

On average, the Wonderland of Trees event raises $53,000 for the United Way. This year’s goal to support 32 agencies in five counties (Raleigh, Fayette, Wyoming, Summers and Nicholas) is $525,000 — the agency’s biggest fundraising goal ever.

The United Way can be reached by calling 304-253-2111 or visiting www.unitedwayswv.org.

— E-mail: chiggins@register-herald.com