The holidays are known as a time for giving, and staff at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center are hoping that people will give to an ongoing event that is part Christmas display and part a fundraiser to support local non-profit organizations.
"We have 21 trees each donated by non-profits in the community, that will be on display throughout the week," said Laura Forbes, Director of Programs and Exhibits at KVCC.
This past Monday, the silent auction bid period began on the trees, and will remain open daily from 9 a.m. through 7 p.m. The bidding will close Saturday at 3 p.m. to correspond with a visit from Santa.
"Half of the proceeds for each tree will go to the organization decorating the tree," Forbes said, "and half will go to the Patrons of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center to support programs and exhibits."
Each non-profit added information about their organization to educate people to their mission or cause, and to add incentive to the bidding process, each spent this past weekend decorating their individual tree.
"They're all decorated and look extraordinary," Forbes said. "They all standout individually and in a unique way that reflects the character of the group they represent."
As a few examples, Forbes cited the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank's tree, which is decorated to mirror a food pyramid; the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, which has almost all hand-crafted items; and the Kenai Performer's Tree, which has a lot of comedy and drama masks as ornaments.
Boyd Jorgenson, a Marine Corps Reservist who is coordinating Toys for Tots of the Kenai Peninsula, said his group's tree had a military theme to its decorations.
"We tried to encompass as many conflict memorials as possible," he said. "We have several representing the Marine Corps, a P.O.W one, a World War II one, a Vietnam one, and one for Operation Iraq Freedom."
There are also several military vehicle ornaments on the tree, Jorgenson said.
"In addition, I brought in some of my desert uniform from when I served in Iraq," he said. "The tree topper is my cover (hat) and the tree skirt is a blouse (shirt) I wore and a pair of boots. I did that to represent all the service members who couldn't be home for Christmas."
"A lot of thought went into all of them," Forbes said.
Non-profits also added incentive items to the tree to get the bids up.
"We are including a trip for two to Alpine Creek Lodge on the Denali Highway. It's a great place that has only dog sled or snowmachine access in the winter," said Tami Murray, Executive Director of the Tustumena 200 Race Association. "I also put together a T-200 package with shirts, posters and other fun swag. The Iditarod sent me a few cachets that the mushers take on the trail. I have four from local mushers, (Paul) Gebhardt, (Jon) Little and two from Tim Osmar. All are signed."
Forbes said she hopes to see the bids on the trees build throughout the week so that all the non-profits can take away some much needed funds, and to ensure the event could happen again in the future.
"My big hope for this event is that people enjoy it enough -- and see a return on their investment of time and energy -- so that we can do it again next year," she said.
"It really reflects our community and how dedicated these groups are to making the Kenai area a great place to live."
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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