A holiday fundraiser to support Fulton County’s developmentally disabled community will go on despite being nipped by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2nd Annual Fulton County Festival of Trees will present a smaller version this year at a new location and with COVID-19 restrictions in mind. Gone will be last year’s tree lighting ceremony, Breakfast With Santa, musical entertainment, and Sugar Plum Ball. The pandemic has forced the event to be reduced to a silent auction of themed, fully-decorated Christmas trees and shopping at an expanded Santa Shop.
The fundraiser has also changed venues, to the former NAPA building at 1160 N. Shoop Ave. in Wauseon. On Nov. 12-14, and Nov. 17, 19, and 21, guests may view about 20 trees up for bid and browse gifts at the Santa Shop from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the weekends. Masks and social distancing will be required.
“We were concerned about not being able to do our typical gala and auction. We wanted to still celebrate the holiday season,” said Kathy Shaw, director of Triangular Processing, a non-profit county organization that employs the developmentally disabled. “This is something we could do within the guidelines.”
The ornate Christmas trees include both traditional styles and themed decorations that include the Grinch, Dr. Seuss, cardinals, and snowmen. Bidding forms will be available for both in-person visitors and those who live-stream the trees on the Festival of Trees Facebook page 5 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. on weekends. Each tree holds between $500 and $1,800 worth of product.
This year, the fundraiser includes an on-site “buy-now” tree option and the addition of pieces by local artists for sale at the Santa Shop, including art of the developmentally disabled.
“There’s a little bit of everything for everybody,” Shaw said.
To replace Breakfast With Santa, the fundraiser will offer children throughout the county personalized video visits with him for a freewill donation. Children can also send Santa video greetings. Forms will be available at the store and at fcfot.square.site.
“Santa has been very generous, and he’s anxious to talk to the kids,” Shaw said.
All of the fundraiser’s proceeds go directly toward county services, programs, and supplies for the developmentally disabled; none is used for administrative costs. Revenue will also benefit supplemental wages for individuals with disabilities and those unable to work due to pandemic concerns.
Last year’s inaugural Festival of Trees raised approximately $18,000.
A noticeable difference this year will be the absence of meet-and-greet members of the disabled community. Shaw said their appearances have been limited by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Special Olympics out of concern for their health. “They’ll be less involved than last year but only by necessity, not choice,” she said.
Shaw said there was worry the Festival of Trees couldn’t be held this year, but community members encouraged it.
“We were very concerned with what it would have to look like,” she said. “We reached out to our sponsors…and they were all 100% on board. The support has just been amazing and the excitement has really just been great to see.”
She said she was humbled to realize what the developmentally disabled mean to their community.
“The important thing is, we’ve learned how important we are to each other. It’s the small things that bring us more meaning in our life anyway,” Shaw said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.