By Mary Elizabeth Dial
There’s no place like home for the holidays, but Gadsden Regional Medical Center has found a way to bring some Christmas cheer to patients spending the holidays in the hospital. The annual Festival of Trees, featuring Christmas trees decorated by different departments and offices, lit up the main lobby on Nov. 28 and will be sold in a silent auction ending Friday, Dec. 9 at 4 p.m.
Each participating group received an artificial Christmas tree from hospital volunteers and supplied ornaments and decorations according to their own unique theme, ranging from “Mountain Christmas” to “Adopt a Pet” to “Willy Wonka.”
“We have some really creative people in this hospital,” marketing director Natalie Fleming said. “You don’t think of hospitals being creative, but every year our staff shows up and they really go all out.”
Each tree is up for auction, and winners have the option to take their trees home as early as Dec. 9 or as late as Jan. 2. This is a new change to the hospital’s rules, which previously required that the trees were removed from the lobby soon after the auction ended. Fleming said this new policy is an improvement for auction winners as well as patients.
Winners, she said, “are not being rushed to get [the trees] down right in the middle of the holiday season… and patients have something to look at.” According to Fleming, helping patients and their families feel the Christmas spirit is a significant benefit of the Festival of Trees.
“Our patients… will get someone to wheel them down to look at it. Little kids love it, the staff loves it.”
One tree stands out among the rest, but it is not beautiful ornaments or colorful lights that catch the eye. Rather than decorations, the “Project Santa” tree is adorned with the names of children whose parents are employed by Gadsden Regional. Employees, patients and the general public can pick a name from the tree and ease that family’s financial burden by buying Christmas presents for the child.
“We love the community fellowship it brings, and the goodwill of kids having something for Christmas,” Fleming said.
Names left on the tree will not be forgotten, either. Proceeds from the silent auction of the decorated trees will purchase gifts for any children whose names were not picked from the Project Santa tree, as well as going toward the Gadsden Regional Medical Center Employee Food Bank.
Fleming also noted that the auction and Project Santa are open to the general public in addition to hospital employees.
“We invite the public to come in and have a look and bid,” she said. “If you’re busy and you don’t have time to fool with a tree, take one home!” She explained that some past auction winners have deconstructed their trees for the ornaments, while others have covered their trees in plastic wrap to keep the decorations intact. The important thing, Fleming said, is that “you’re helping kids and doing a good thing for our community.”
For more information about the Festival of Trees auction and Project Santa, call Natalie Fleming at 256-494-4300.