Festival of Trees keeps memories alive for many

After years of creating crafts for magazines, Ann Snuggs now uses her talents to help Hospice of Stanly and the Uwharrie decorate for the Festival of Trees.

Snuggs has volunteered with hospice for about six years, and has spent about five years decorating trees. Each year, hospice holds the Festival of Trees, with individuals, businesses and organizations sponsoring trees.

Sometimes, the sponsors decorate the trees themselves. Others sponsor the tree, but leave the decorating to hospice staff and volunteers. Each tree costs $300, whether or not the sponsor chooses to decorate the tree themselves.

The result is a line of uniquely-decorated trees, some with themes chosen by hospice and others chosen in memory of loved ones. One decorated by hospice staff features a female mannequin’s torso on top with a cropped Christmas tree just beneath the waist, giving the effect of a large, evergreen skirt. Another tree, sponsored by the Stanly County Arts Guild, Barbara Overcash, Dianne Roberts and Sue Davis, is covered in polka-dot ornaments, ribbons and paint palettes.

Barbies cover one tree decorated in memory of Kerri Efird.

One tree, covered in and surrounded by Barbies, was decorated by Tracy and Scott Efird in memory of their daughter, Kerri, who died in 1999. Last year, the couple used Beanie Babies.

This year, they used Barbies and Barbie books. Each year, they choose a theme that represents something loved by Kerri, who died after struggling with cystic fibrosis.

Snuggs used to create crafts for magazines, receiving boxes of supplies and creating unique crafts with directions for others to replicate them. She also worked for florist Claude Harwood.

Her natural creativity lends itself to decorating the trees. In the past, Ann and her husband, Joe, have sponsored a tree in memory of someone. This year, their tree wasn’t dedicated to anyone in particular, but Ann still did the decorating.

During the tree lighting, she helped those who wished to purchase angels for the tree.
The angels can be purchased in memory of a loved one. There are more than 50 Christmas trees at the Festival of Trees, and nine of those are angel trees. The angels are arranged in alphabetical order, with many angels adorning each of the trees.

Those trees are then lit during the tree-lighting event.

Michaele Connors, a bereavement coordinator, Karen Kaser-Odor, a chaplain, and Janna Spurr, also a bereavement coordinator, addressed the crowd. Kaser-Odor led them in singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” and the chorus of “Star of Wonder.”

“The song reminds us of a sweet time in our lives, being lovingly held or lovingly holding someone,” she said.

Kaser-Odor reminded everyone of the significance of the angels.

“These angels and the light that shines through them represent love in human form,” she said.

Spurr read a poem of remembrance, then talked about one client who began buying angels in the 1980s in memory of her parents. The woman has bought angels ever since, accumulating a collection. A photo on display showed the woman’s tree in her house, covered in the small white angels.

The Snuggs have no children, and Ann, a three-time cancer survivor, said spending her time helping hospice is “just a natural for me.”

While her crafting talents have come in handy, Ann pointed out that there are many other necessary tasks that require other talents, even including creating the angels.

“This is a great organization to work for,” Ann said. “There are so many talented people. It takes so many gifts to make it work.”

She expressed her gratitude for those who answer the phone, attach tags to angels and perform other behind-the-scenes work.

“It’s amazing how everybody has different gifts,” Ann said. “There’s something for everyone to do.”

The Festival of Trees will remain on display until Dec. 31. To purchase an angel, visit hospiceofstanly.org/angels. Orders can be completed online or an order form can be downloaded. Each angel ornament costs $10.

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.