THOMSON - One of McDuffie County's most beloved traditions has reached an importantmilestone.
The Tree of Love - the McDuffie Regional Medical Center Auxiliary's biggest fundraiser of the year - is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The 20-foot-tall live tree, covered with festive Christmas lights, is located in front of the McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson.
However, this isn't your average Christmas tree.
The Tree of Love fundraiser was developed 20 years ago as a way to publicly honor those whose lives were tragically cut short or deeply affected in some way.
For $10, the donor will have a light dedicated on the Tree of Love in honor or in memory of the person of their choice. The Auxiliary also accepts cash donations in the name of the Tree of Love. Donations are accepted year round, but for this year's tree, donations must be made before January 1.
The list of honored names will be published. The donation can be kept private per the donor's request.
How to help
For more information, contact Eva Newsome at 597-5408. Donation envelopes can be picked up at the McDuffie Regional Medical Center. Cash and checks, along with a piece of paper with the honored person's name, are accepted via mail. Checks should be made payable to the Tree of Love. Mail should be sent to:
Tree of Love
c/o McDuffie Regional Medical Center
521 Hill Street
Thomson, GA 30824
Director of Volunteer Services Eva Newsome is proud of the Auxiliary's living memorial.
"Four years we committed, the Auxiliary did, to raise $20,000," she said.
That figure is expected to be met this year.
So where does the money go? Easy. Right back to the hospital.
"The money is always given back to the hospital in some form of furniture. We built intensive care waiting rooms and a deck outside of the dining room. We also furnished a child's room. We've done a lot of things with the money," Newsome said.
Each year, the tree is lit by a doctor and their family. On December 2nd, the tree was lit by Dr. Susan Land, her husband, and their two sons. A star was donated by various hospital personnel and their families. During a special ceremony, the star was lit by Nurse Angie Widener and her husband, Lane, in memory of their son Dillon who was killed last year in an automobile accident.
"The Tree of Love is gorgeous," said Georgia Hobbs, a five-year volunteer in the hospital gift shop. "It serves a real purpose, and the star is magnificent."
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