Truro Mall is looking a little more festive these days.
Seven decorated Christmas trees are currently on display at the mall. Each was decorated by local non-profit organizations which are now taking part in a friendly competition that started December 1 and will run until December 24.
But in order to be crowned the winner, each organization will need the help of shoppers, who are invited to make a donation in support of the tree or trees they like best. When the contest closes, the donations received will be presented to the respective charities. On top of that, Truro Mall will also match donations for the winning organization up to $250.
“We are hoping to put a smile on the faces of our customers by seeing beautifully decorated trees by local non-profit organizations,” said Jaclyn Johnston, marketing manager for Strathallen Property Management Inc. “Christmas is the time of year to give back and say thanks. This is a great way to make a small donation to one or all seven of these great organizations.
Participating organizations include the Colchester East Hants Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Colchester 4-H, Third Place Transition House, Colchester SPCA, The Salvation Army, Thirsty Church Project and Colchester Community Workshops.
“We deal with more than 50 different organizations over the course of the year,” said Johnston, adding it was a difficult decision not to include more groups. “When we decided this was something we wanted to run with, I reached out to approximately a dozen of those organizations and said we were looking for the first six to reply. Almost immediately I received word from seven of the groups so we decided to bump it up to seven.”
Once they had a spot in the competition, members of the each group went to the mall and decorated the trees, which were donated by Truro Mall. They also provided each organization with $50 to purchase some Christmas decorations for the trees as well.
Johnston says the effort put in by each group has really made it difficult for customers who have to choose which tree they like best.
“I’m overwhelmed by the creativity and thought that’s been put in,” she said. “It you look at each tree, they speak to what each organization represents. The Salvation Army, for example, has hats and mittens on their tree. When the competition is over, they’re going to donate those items. I thought it was a great way to physically show what they represent. I’m just so impressed. It’s going to be a tough choice.”
Tasha MacNutt, Georgia Mingo and Mara Larade are all members of the Clifton 4-H Club. They, along with 4-H members from four other clubs spent time decorating the tree on November 30.
McNutt says it took the group approximately two hours to decorate their tree.
“Each club will have their own ornament on the tree,” added Larade. “We also have ornaments that represent each project under the 4-H umbrella. So people will see a tractor or an animal to represent a livestock project and things that represent life skills like sewing and crafts.”
A general leader with the Clifton club, Teresa McNutt says any donations received by Colchester 4-H will be used by all the clubs to help with programming or costs that go with hosting an event throughout the year.
“This is such a great opportunity for our clubs to be represented,” said McNutt. “When the mall reached out, we jumped right on the chance. The fact they supplied the tree and then gave us an additional $50 to buy decorations was fantastic.”
Susan Henderson, executive director with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Colchester East Hants Branch says the awareness aspect of the competition is just as important as the donations.
Many in the community still aren’t aware of the programs and services offered by the organization.
“Then there are some who know we exist but think we’re designed for the people who are impacted the most by mental health,” she said. “We’re here for everyday people as well. The people who are working, living and contributing to their community but also are facing a mental health issue. This is a stressful time of year and we see what those pressures can do to people. It’s important they know and understand we are there to support them.”
Donations received by the local branch will be put toward the cold breakfast program – a daily, free offering that not only starts the day off on the right foot for people, but gets many out of their home.
“Some people are taking medications so it’s important they have an opportunity to get something in their stomach,” continued Henderson. “Then there is the social aspect of it. It’s get people out of bed, out of their homes and around other people.”
When it came to decorating their tree, Henderson said staff wanted to put their own spin on it.
“We wanted to acknowledge there are many faces to mental health,” she said. “We wanted to have a little fun with it while finding an easy way to show mental health and how it impacts our lives. We actually have mirror ornaments the hope is people will see their reflection in those mirrors which really emphasises mental health is about us all.”
The early feedback has Johnston excited about the potential of hosting the competition on an annual basis.
After speaking with some of the groups, she says the fact they were decorating the trees in the middle of the mall generated a lot of interest from shoppers.
“So many people stopped to watch and ask why they were decorating the trees,” Johnston recalled. “That awareness alone can be a big thing for these organizations. But we’re hoping to add to that awareness with the donations. It’s a time of year where everyone wants to get back. It’s also a time of year where there’s not always a lot of extra money. But we will accept quarters in these envelopes if