Think about the joy of giving

We are all so blessed to live in communities that are so supportive of activities and events in our area. That level of love and support was certainly in place at the recent United Way of Southern West Virginia’s Wonderland of Trees Auctions on Friday, Nov. 15, at the Mercer Mall in Mercer County and Friday, Nov. 22, at the Ruby Welcome Center in Fayette County. This was the 11th annual Wonderland of Trees held by United Way in Raleigh and Fayette counties and the inaugural event in Mercer County! Our community is very lucky that in 2008, Richard Jarrell, owner of the Chick-Fil-As in Beckley, suggested this event as a fundraiser for United Way. It has grown each year and I am sure I am not the only person who views this as the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.

I want to give a special thanks to the Ruby Welcome Center and the Mercer Mall for not only hosting the auctions but for housing the trees for the two-week period prior to the auctions where the public could come view the trees and vote on their favorites. I also want to thank the Rotary Club of Bluefield, W.Va., for partnering with the United Way for the Mercer County inaugural Wonderful of Trees event.

The 7-1/2-foot pre-lit trees were decorated by businesses, civic groups, individuals, churches and schools. The time and energy put into decorating the trees is phenomenal. Many of the participants work on their decorations all year long, impressing visitors with their well-thought-out themes and accompanying gifts and goodies. I am amazed each year at the degree of creativity that is put into the Wonderland of Trees event. During the weeks leading up to the events, the public views the trees and for a $1 donation to United Way can vote for their favorite tree. The tree with the most votes at each venue earns the honor of the People’s Choice Award.

The Wonderland of Trees held at Mercer Mall had 16 beautiful and creative trees auctioned off with the inaugural event raising just over $6,500! What a very successful first year! The People’s Choice Award Winner was the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Tree, “Where Treetops Glisten.”

The Ruby Welcome Center Wonderland of Trees hosted 43 beautiful trees and was a very lively auction evening. Although we don’t yet have the final number for the money raised, it was a very successful evening. All 43 trees involved lively bidding and were purchased by a wide variety of bidders. The People’s Choice Award winner was American Electric Equipment’s “Swing United,” which included a brand-new golf cart with the tree!

Thanks to all the participants in the auctions, the folks who volunteered collecting votes and manning the locations while patrons viewed the trees, the auctioneers, and especially the staff of the United Way of Southern West Virginia who were tireless in their commitment to Wonderland of Trees.

All the monies raised from these auctions will continue to support not only the 41 nonprofit agencies they partner with but also the community impact initiatives taken on by the United Way on its own. Please know that every dollar raised is helping our friends and neighbors who need a hand up.

No gift is too small. You can pledge conveniently and securely online at www.unitewayswv.org or by calling 304-253-2111 to speak with a United Way representative. You may also mail your contribution today to United Way of Southern West Virginia, PO Box 5456, Beckley, WV 25801.

I am already looking forward to next year’s Wonderland of Trees and would encourage everyone to participate by decorating a tree, viewing the trees and voting for your favorite, and attending the auction and maybe even buying a tree! It is all for a wonderful cause that helps so many people in our communities.

Nancy Kissinger is this year’s United Way Campaign chair.

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