AMHERST – The Cumberland County United Way will help kick off the Christmas season while raising some important funds for its annual campaign.
The United Way is hosting a Festival of Trees at the Amherst Centre mall on Nov. 17 and 18 with various companies and organizations decorating Christmas trees that will be “auctioned off via silent auction.
“We were looking for a special event to hold during our annual campaign to help raise money for our member agencies,” United Way chairman David March said. “I’d seen this concept used elsewhere and believe it can be successful here. A festival of trees is something that can be done in a place as small as St. Peters in Cape Breton Island or as big as Red Deer, Alta., where the hospital foundation raised a million dollars. It can work here.”
It’s also hosting a business luncheon from 12 to 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 along with Breakfast with Santa on Nov. 18 from 9 to 11 a.m. and photos with Santa from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tickets for the business luncheon are $20 each and there will be representatives from the United Way’s member agencies on hand to talk about how the United Way benefits them.
“Without the United Way’s annual campaign there would be no VON Meals on Wheels or SMILE and SHINE program,” March said. “We’re also hoping to use a CCTS bus to shuttle people back and forth from the downtown so they can see how important the transportation society is.”
Buds to Blossoms and Bordertown Flowers and Frills will be decorating trees for the festival along with Maggie’s Place, Amherst Pre-School, the Sexual Health Centre, the Amherst 50+ Club, Maritime Mosaic and others.
March is also hoping to encourage each of the schools in the community to decorate a tree.
Throughout the two days people will be able to view the trees and made bids with the winning bids being announced on the 18th at 9 p.m.
The celebration will also include a festive arts and craft sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the 18th.
The festival will also compliment Amherst’s Christmas kickoff that begins with the downtown lightup in Victoria Square on the 17th and continues with the Christmas parade from the downtown to the mall on the 18th.
The United Way is also selling tickets on a gift tree with several hundred dollars in gift certificates donated by area businesses. Tickets are $2 each, three for $5 or 10 for $10.
March said he saw the crowd that attended the mall after last year’s parade and figures it’s something the United Way’s festival will benefit from. He spoke to the town’s recreation director, Bill Schurman, about the date of this year’s parade and everything fell into place.
“The whole idea is to take advantage of the fact that people are already in town and are in a celebratory mode. Normally when the parade ends people just disappear, but last year there was such a big crowd and the fact it ended at the mall helped with planning for this idea,” March said.
Most of the festivities will take around the mall’s centre court along with a couple of storefronts.
Along with raising money for the United Way, March hopes the festival helps raise awareness for the organization and its member agencies.
“This is a way for us to increase the visibility of the United Way. We have some very good programs we support,” March said.