Festival of Trees a community staple

As the saying goes “it takes a village.” That could truly be the tag line for our United Way and the nonprofit community we represent. So much at times that I think we should just consider painting that mantra across our windows, thresholds and sidewalks! There may have been few times when those words rang in my head more than the last week (and by “rang in my head” I think I mean bounced around like a pin ball during countless sleepless nights!)

For more than three decades the Festival of Trees has been a mainstay of our local holiday season. A visit to see the trees on display has transcended generations and forged traditions for families and friends alike. When it was announced just a little over a week ago that the event was being canceled this year, there could be heard a collective sigh of disappointment across our community. 2020 has been a year of so much loss and disruption and the cancellation of the Festival of Trees seemed to just be the painful punctuation mark of a very difficult and disappointing year.

So when the owners at the historic Blennerhassett Hotel reached out and asked if I thought our Untied Way could take on the event, it triggered a series of random, rapid and conflicting thoughts in my already overcrowded mind. How could we possibly pull that off in such a short time window? How could we even begin to rally participants and sponsors? We didn’t know the details and nuances of this grand event, so where would we even start?

So as the words “thanks for thinking of us, that is so kind, but we couldn’t possibly……” began to form on my tongue, the word “COMMUNITY” lit up in my head like a lighted storefront display. Community. Our community needs a little Christmas, maybe more this year than any year we can remember. Our organization needs a fundraising opportunity that can help us pivot to what is becoming the new norm all around us. So, I reverted to my old standard of validity testing, is it good for our community? YES! Is it good for our organization? YES! (Is it good for Stacy? Well, remember what I said about sleepless nights this week?) So before I could stop myself, I said “YES!” We said “YES!”

That’s what your United Way does. Day after day, time after time, we say “YES!” We say “yes” to the insurmountable challenges and the most difficult problems. We say “yes” to this community, and then we work hard, dig deep and dream big to help bring forth a stronger, healthier and more vibrant community for everyone. Saying yes is not easy. Some would say it isn’t usually advisable or prudent. We work hard to stay committed to the YES. We can do that, and we can deliver because we do have a village. Our village has been strong and amazing this week, just as they always are. Old friends and new friends have stepped up and joined in. Our village has rallied with enthusiasm and excitement. This is what happens when we maintain collaborative relationships year-round, always. This is what happens when we have strong partners and adamant believers. This is what happens when you say yes and work tirelessly and with passion to deliver on that yes.

The Festival of Trees tradition will continue. It is the newest signature event of your local Untied Way. The proceeds will remain here in our community benefiting and supporting our neighbors in need. We are committed to delivering an event that meets all of the critical protocols for safety and health. Will the event look a bit different this year? Sure! Will we all need to exert grace and patience as we commit to ensuring safety fist? Certainly! Will the Festival of Trees be the spectacular bit of Christmas that we all need right now! Absolutely!

We are humbled and over joyed to be a part of this continuing tradition and look forward to celebrating the kick of off of the holidays in our community for many years to come! A tremendous wave of gratitude to Conley Law Office and Jan Dills Attorneys at Law for being not only our event sponsors but our cheerleaders! What an amazing village we have!


Stacy DeCicco is the executive director of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.


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