Festival of Trees fundraiser finds new home

6 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Those wishing to cast votes for their favorite decorated Christmas tree at Houlton Regional Hospital will have to look a little harder this year. 

For the past five years, the Health Services Foundation has filled the main concourse of Houlton Regional Hospital with beautifully decorated trees as part of the foundation’s annual “Festival of Trees” event.

This year, however, the foundation found itself in violation of hospital codes after a complaint was filed with the Department of Health and Human Services. An investigator with the state fire marshal’s office visited the hospital Thursday morning and informed the foundation that the trees had to be moved.

Greg Day, supervisor for the northern region of the fire marshal’s office, said Thursday that he could not comment on the matter. Instead, he referred questions to the state Department of Health and Human Services, as that is where the complaint against the trees originated.

Attempts to obtain a comment from DHHS were not successful.

According to Lori Weston, executive director for the Health Services Foundation, all of the trees along the concourse were relocated to the Education Center on the second floor for safety concerns.

“It will still be beautiful,” Weston said Thursday. “We are going to work real hard to get it done.”

“It’s too bad we had to move them,” added Scott Allen, HSF board chairman. “When you come to the hospital, it is not always a joyous occasion. The trees provided a pleasant distraction during the holiday.”

Volunteers and hospital staff were busy Thursday afternoon helping to carefully move the decorated items to the second floor of the hospital. By Friday morning, all of the trees had been moved to the the second floor.

Signs will be placed along the concourse letting people know where to find the trees.

Tom Moakler, CEO for the hospital, said Thursday afternoon he was disappointed that the trees had to be relocated. Moakler added that the hospital has had Christmas trees along the concourse for about 22 years as holiday decorations and never received a complaint.

Support for the Festival of Trees fundraiser continues to grow each year as area businesses, organizations, and individuals create beautiful, fully decorated trees, wreaths or other holiday themed items that showcase their business. This year, 29 trees and 18 wreaths were donated to the group.

“Each tree is so different than the next,” Weston said. “It truly is remarkable what people have come up with.”

Individuals or businesses donate the fully decorated artificial trees, with many of those trees filled with gift cards and other prizes. For example, one tree that Weston dubbed a true “Charlie Brown” tree is filled with $500 in gift certificates. Other trees, donated by Smith and Wesson and Macs Trading Post, have firearms as prizes.

“The beauty of everything, up until today, is that it has drawn people into the hospital just to see the trees,” Weston said. “Seeing the little kids with their tickets trying to decide which ballot box to put them in was wonderful. The trees really made it feel like a community hospital.”

Tickets, which are $1 each, will be sold through Nov. 30. Each tree is numbered with a corresponding ballot box nearby for people to place their tickets into. On Nov. 30, winners will be drawn.

Last year’s event raised more than $9,000 to help with the foundation’s mission. With those funds, the Health Services Foundation is able to assist the local hospital, area health clinics, municipal police and fire departments, and area schools with much needed equipment and programs.  

The first Festival of Trees was held in 2013 as a fundraiser for the Southern Aroostook Cultural Arts Project. The following year, SACAP partnered with Health Services Foundation, with trees located at both the hospital and SACAP’s downtown art gallery, before HSF took over the event exclusively.

Tickets are available at the HSF office, located on the first floor of the hospital near the gift shop. For more information visit, https://www.healthservicesfoundation.org/ or call Weston at 521-2147 or email hsflweston@pwless.net.