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Arc of Rowan Festival of Trees event starts tonight

The year Charlotte Gardner’s daughter died of breast cancer was a difficult time, but it was also a time of healing. Gardner found solace in the Arc of Rowan’s first Festival of Trees fundraising event. She used some of her daughter’s Christmas ornaments to decorate a tree.

Gardner has returned to decorate a tree every year for the organization’s biggest fundraiser. This is her 11th year and the 11th year for the annual event. This year 51 individuals, businesses or organizations purchased a tree and had help from many more volunteers who take time to decorate the trees.

Once the trees are decorated the community is invited to tour the trees, which are housed at the F&M Trolley Barn.

The event is free to the public and it begins tonight from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. and continues Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. In addition to looking at the different trees on display there will be cookies and other light snacks available. F&M Trolley Barn is located at 127 E. Liberty St., Salisbury.

Gardner began decorating a Christmas tree with longtime friend and collaborative decorating partner, Pat Wayne, on Thursday morning. Gardner came up with the snowman themed tree, she said, after the purchase of a snowman tree topper.

Wayne said she expected it to take them about three hours to have the tree completely decorated. The women have been preparing for their theme for nearly a year.

“We collect all year and sometimes we know what we want to do,” Wayne said.

They knew what type of theme they’d use and throughout the year have been coming up with creative handmade decorations, like the paper icicle Gardner made out of a paper towel roll.

Gardner said she cut the roll into strips and rolled it around a pencil. She then painted them white, which stiffened the cardboard and she added glitter for an extravagant effect.

“They needed volunteers,” Wayne said as to the reason she initially signed on to decorate. She used to work at Salisbury Flower Shop and now is a nurse.

The pair check out yard sales, the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and other discount stores for decorations or inspiration.

The friends call their tree “Winter Wonderland.”

About 30 to 35 students from the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Skills Opportunities Awareness and Readiness (S.O.A.R.) also decorated a tree. The class is for individuals with learning and intellectual disabilities.

One of the group’s instructor’s Jay Taylor, said they had been preparing since October when they began making ornaments.

Mercy Watson was one of the students who helped string beads. Watson said she loves to decorate.

She said it’s also important to know “this is about Jesus Christ, how he died on the cross.” Watson also said she hopes the group does caroling because she loves to sing and hopes that she will be able to sing her favorite Christmas song, Oh Holy Night.

Local artist Terry Doyle gave the students the ideas for the decorations.

Bridget Henderson, Barbara Harper and Mary Jane Hartley are three other instructors with the class who also helped decorate. In addition, the students received help from Easter Seals, Interim Healthcare, Bayada Nurses and RHA Health Services. This is the second year the students have decorated a tree. The theme for their tree is SOARing into the Holidays.

Members of the Carter House also decorated a tree. Carter House is a psychosocial rehabilitation program for adults with severe mental illness.

This is also the second year the Carter House members decorated a tree said Karenda Harris, a staff member.

Harris said the members made the decorations and the rest came from Jane Jackman and her husband, who sponsored a tree. They’ve been working since mid-November on decorations.

“It’s our way to say thank you,” Harris said.

“We are grateful for anyone who considers us to give us a tree,” Harris said.

In the first year the Arc had 23 trees and this year they have the most with 51, said Executive Director Shela Sapp.

In 2013, Sapp said they had 1,400 attend.

This fundraiser is a chance to introduce some people to the Arc of Rowan and for some it helps them kick off their Christmas holiday.

There will be a silent auction and raffle during the event where gifted items like Christmas wreaths and a handmade quilt are on the list.

“We appreciate the continuing support and the new support for this wonderful event,” she said.

The space was again donated to the Arc for the event, Sapp said.

The event’s corporate sponsors this year are F&M Bank, Food Lion, Bimbo Bakeries USA and Wells Fargo. The Arc of Rowan is a Rowan County United Way member agency.

For more information about the Arc of Rowan visit www.thearcofrowan.org or call 704-637-1521.

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