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Trees bearing fruit

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2019 Festival of Trees benefits Community Pantry

The 2019 Festival of Trees held by the Rio West Mall. The Dec. 7 event attracted a crowd of approximately 100 people eager to view and win decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and displays. Each was donated for a raffle to benefit the Community Pantry.

According to Executive Director Alice Perez, when you donate and/or sponsor a decorated tree, wreath or gift, you help raise money and awareness about the fact that 1 in 4 children in New Mexico are hungry. Tickets for the event were sold for $3 apiece or 4 for $10.

All proceeds went to the Community Pantry, whose motto is “Because no Mother’s Child should go hungry,” helps community members, children, veterans, the elderly, and families in need.

The Community Pantry is still finalizing the numbers, but Perez said a rough estimate of the proceeds shows a profit of about $4,000, which will go back to the community in the form of food.

Perez says this was the Community Pantry’s first turn as recipients of the Rio West Mall event and it was put together in under a month. She is already planning for the 2020 festival with hopes of more participation. In fact, she says the Community Pantry is already taking registrations for next year. “We just hope the mall has a much bigger place to hold next year’s event,” she said with a laugh.

“Getting to work with the community and having the community join in on our efforts is what made it so much fun.  Because not only was it fun for us, it was fun for them.” Perez said.

A total of 18 trees and 7 wreaths were given out, along with gift certificates. In addition the mall gave away a grand prize of three Christmas stockings filled with goodies totaling $1,564 for Dad, Mom, and Child.

Since winners had to be present at the event, ticket-holders were on hand to listen for their numbers.

One of those was Dorothy Casias, of Gallup, who won a tree decorated with American flags, donated by McKinley County Veteran Services. “We try to attend this function yearly. It’s just something we enjoy doing and giving back to the community,” Casias said. “It’s a very beautiful tree and we’re happy.”

Melissa Turner, of Gallup, bought 4 tickets and won a tree decorated with red chile peppers and 12 gift certificates. “I heard them call out my number and I felt very excited. Winning this is going to make for a very nice Christmas for my family,” she said.

Joan Hughes is a regular at the Festival of Trees.  This year she won a wreath. “There were so many people here and it’s great,” Hughes said. “Each year I just fall more in love with this event. In the past I have won 3 trees. Now I can get rid of the ugly wreath at home,” she laughed.

Perez expressed her sincere thank you to all sponsors for your help in raising funds for The Community Pantry; Washington Federal Bank, McKinley County Veterans Collaboration, Rainaldi Dental, Clay Fultz Insurance, Bomb Diggity, Chee Montano - State Farm Insurance Agent, Soaring Eagle Home Care, Kiwanis Club of Gallup, iHeart Media, Christian Verdugo-Black, Family Medicine Associates, Millenium Media, The Rocket Café, The Flower Basket,
Sammy C’s Rockin Sports Pub & Grille, Blanco Cuts, and Pinnacle Bank.

For more information on the Festival of Trees: (505) 722-8068 or visit thecommunitypantry.org

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun