Christmas tree brings in donations

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Five dollar donations, 14 volunteers, 22 consecutive years, almost 1,600 lights and more than a mile of decorations made up a ceremony worth remembering.

The Hospice of San Joaquin held its annual Tree of Lights ceremony on the corner of Pacific and Yokuts avenues in Stockton on Nov. 23. The event, sponsored by PG&E and San Joaquin Delta College, raised money to benefit the Pacific Avenue Hospice House location.

A dedicated crew of volunteers from PG&E decorates the tree each year.

This year, PG&E switched to “energy efficient” LED lights. A group of volunteers got together to dress the tree in over 3,000 feet of lights and another 3,000 feet of garland.

Prior to the event, family and friends dedicated a light in honor of a loved one with prices starting at $5 and peaking at $500, depending on light color and placement on the 80-foot tree.

Former volunteer Jeanette Michaels donated a total of $105 this year.

“It’s a great cause, the best,” she said. “It’s worth it if you’ve seen the way they treat their patients.”

The popular family oriented ceremony had something for everyone to enjoy. From live music by the Delta Singers to hot cocoa and cider, cookies and packs of Christmas cards.

“I love this event so much because it pulls together the community.

The entire community is affected by death and the Tree of Lights gives everyone an opportunity to grieve with others in a beautiful way,” said Mary Willis, vice president of the Hospice Butterfly Auxiliary.

The Hospice Butterfly Auxiliary is in charge of community events and fundraising. The group was kind enough to be this year’s cookie sponsors.

Throughout the ceremony, guests were welcome to view the names of light recipients. Names of donors and honorees are also placed on the marquee at the base of the tree. The display remains through Dec. 31.

“It’s sad because every year it seems like there’s more and more lights,” said onlooker Rebecca Keifer. “I’ve been doing this for 14 years since I moved here and I’ve donated several lights since.”