By Natalie MAIER
A reflection of the grand chandelier sparkled off the ornaments on the Christmas tree in the foyer. Guests smiled cheerfully and wished each other happy holidays as they made their rounds from one table to the next, eagerly dropping their opportunity tickets into boxes and crossing their fingers, hoping they had a chance to win their favorite item up for auction.
The Assistance League of Glendale held its 37th annual Festival of Trees at the Glendale Hilton on Sunday. Over 400 event tickets were sold, which made it a very successful year according to Assistance League president Alma Tycer. Though funds are still being tallied, Assistance League treasurers Mary Follett and Roubina Hardy expect the fundraiser to have earned similar to the 2011 event, between $40,000 and $45,000.
“By The Candle’s Glow” was this year’s theme. Festival of Trees chairwoman Sally Benson credits the idea from “sitting by the fireplace.”
“[The Festival of Trees] starts our holiday season,” Benson said. “By doing this, we can help the children of Glendale. There are generous people here.”
The Assistance League supports seven major philanthropies including Authors and Illustrators Days, Foster Friends Backpacks, Operation School Bell, scholarships, S.A.T. Seminars, Senior Neighborhood Fellowship and a vocational training program.
Tycer explained that the Festival of Trees is one of the League’s main fundraisers for supporting Operation School Bell, which provides children in the GUSD school district with uniforms, a backpack and health kit. Last year they dressed over 700 children.
A large smile crossed Tycer’s face when asked what it was like for her to personally witness the children coming to the chapter house to receive brand new clothes.
“It really is something,” she said. “Most of the kids have never owned new clothes before.”
Tycer recounted a time when she saw a boy receive his first toothbrush that he could call his very own.
GUSD board of education member Mary Boger offered her thoughts on how the Assistance League’s support has aided students.
“I am so happy every year to support the Festival of Trees because each year the Assistance League clothes so many of our students. We all forget sometimes that amongst us are poor children,” said Boger. “Without Assistance League [the GUSD students] would not have the same level of comfort at school that their peers have. They can come to school in their uniforms or clothes, with new shoes and backpacks and feel like every other kid. Every student that feels like they fit in – like they belong – does better academically.”
At 9 a.m. the silent auction began. Wine baskets, gold necklaces, Christmas decorations and gift cards to various local restaurants including Fish King and Zeke’s BBQ Smokehouse covered the tables that were set up in the foyer.
Elaborately decorated Christmas trees surrounded the perimeter of the banquet hall. One stand out was Santa’s Kitchen and Helpers, underwritten and presented by Sally Benson and Daryll Baker-Pollock, and decorated with red Tupperware kitchen utensils. Another was S’no Place Like Home, a festive tree adorned with snowmen ornaments and designed by Yuonne Elleri and Linda Pebsworth and underwritten by members of the Las Caritas Auxiliary.
A total of 25 businesses in the Glendale area donated gift items for the raffle and auction. Members and non-members of the Assistance League also contributed items, according to the organizers of the auction Karen Grigg and Margery Welker.
At noon lunch was served, beginning with salad and warm bread. Guests had the option of a chicken, salmon or a vegetarian entree. Creamy rich chocolate cake concluded the meal.
While the guests ate, Benson’s grandson Matthew Bynum, an 11th grader at Concordia High School, preformed Christmas carols with his concert choir. Their voices rang throughout the hall as they sang classic holiday tunes.
After lunch, the live auction began. One item up for bid, A Disney Extravaganza, included a tiny Christmas tree with glass candy ornaments along with a $700 Disney gift card, sold for $875.
The Assistance League of Glendale is accepting donations for its Thrift Alley, which is located at 314 ‘A’ East Harvard St. in Glendale. The shop is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. but will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 22 until Jan. 2. Call (818) 246-2294 prior to dropping off donations.
For more information about the Assistance League, visit http://www.alglendale.org/.