Decorating Christmas trees can do more than raise spirits. It can raise money, too.
For the Wonderland of Trees event last month, the Summit Bechtel Reserve decked its halls, showed off its breathtaking views and helped the United Way of Southern West Virginia rebound during a difficult year.
Here’s how it worked: Walmart donated bare Christmas trees to 40 local businesses, organizations and individuals. These 40 groups got to work, putting their creativity in motion by decorating the trees.
Naturally, they started with standard Christmas embellishments like ornaments, lights and Iron Man masks. But these trees weren’t meant to merely look expensive. They were designed to generate actual cash for the local United Way.
All 40 trees were auctioned off, with proceeds going to the United Way of Southern West Virginia.
Knowing this, some groups added gift cards to the branches and packed presents under the tree — all in an effort to generate bids and raise as much money as possible.
Once the decorating was done, these tricked-out Tannenbaums were carefully transported to the Summit’s J.W. Marriott Jr. Leadership Center in Glen Jean, W.Va., where members of the community could view them from Nov. 6 to 20. Thanks to the Summit’s wide-open spaces, the venue provided plenty of room for social distancing.
“It is a spectacular event for them and a fantastic way for us to showcase the Summit,” says Summit Group Director Todd McGregor. “Having 40 decorated trees that people toured through was an absolutely gorgeous sight.”
A partner in need
Like most nonprofits, the United Way of Southern West Virginia has been hit especially hard during the pandemic. By stepping up to support this event, the Summit demonstrates how BSA units, councils and high-adventure bases can work with local partners to solve a community need.
At a time when everyone could use a dose of kindness, the Summit is showing what it means to be a good neighbor.
“We’re very grateful to the Summit Bechtel Reserve for allowing us to have this incredible venue with safe space and distance,” says Megan Legursky, executive director of the United Way of Southern West Virginia. “The Wonderland of Trees gets everybody in gear for having their heart in the right places and supporting our community — which needs us now more than ever.”
Rallying the community
The Summit was the host and facilitator, and the United Way of Southern West Virginia was the beneficiary.
But the Wonderland of Trees could not have happened without community partners like Carol McCarthy.
McCarthy, a longtime Scouting volunteer and Silver Buffalo Award recipient, helped create a tree for the Beckley Rotary Club, where she’s a board member. The blue-and-gold tree featured several doors — a play on the theme “Rotary Opens Doors” — and included gift cards to area businesses.
“This is an amazing event,” she says. “It’s really an opportunity during this COVID environment that the Summit has been able to open up the Marriott Leadership Center. Because we have such a large area and room, we can properly space here.”
Even after the auction ended, staff members from the Summit weren’t done helping. Many stayed to prepare the trees for transport to the winning bidders’ homes. They even shrink-wrapped each tree so the ornaments would stay in place as they traveled.
Speaking of travel, Jonathan Grose and his team at City National Bank created a tree that was meant to transport viewers to somewhere relaxing and warm.
“This year, our tree is called the Blue Lagoon,” says Grose, who is also a board member for the United Way chapter. “It has a beach theme, and since we’re here in the mountains of West Virginia, we always like to vacation at the beach. We thought, hey, a lot of people probably didn’t get to go this year, so we thought we’d go with that theme.”
Grose says a community bank should act like a member of its community — something his team strives for.
“We see the importance of being involved in community activities and interacting,” he says. “This year is so important, with everything going on, that we get some normalcy that we’ve all been striving for.”
All photos by Kevin O’Keefe, the Summit’s communications and marketing director. Thanks, Kevin, for the photos and help with this post!