Those who missed Thursday’s Festival of Trees but who still want to help The Era’s Less Fortunate (ELF) Fund this year are in luck: There are gift tags that need filled.
Each tag contains the Christmas wishes of a needy child or senior in the Bradford Area School District. To purchase a gift, simply pick up a tag from the tree at a local business, then return the tag to this year’s ELF headquarters in early December.
Many in the community logged on Thursday to support the organization by taking part in the annual Festival of Trees auction fundraiser. The Festival of Trees Committee had to be creative this year in planning the event due to the risk of COVID-19, and the event was held virtually through Facebook and iBid.org.
“The ELF Fund and Festival of Trees committee are extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to do something in lieu of the in-person event,” said Rhonda Gray, ELF Fund board member and member of the Festival of Trees Committee.
Despite the changes, “One thing that can’t take a back seat this year is Christmas for those children and those seniors,” said ELF Fund President Ed Hayden at the auction.
The event helps raise money for the organization’s gift program, and other activities the group does throughout the year.
Hayden noted that nearly 150 families and between 70 and 80 seniors need the ELF Fund’s help this year.
Among the auction items were four decorated trees submitted by contestants in the 2020 Tree Challenge. Sandy Corradi won the Tree Challenge, as her tree “Woodland Wonderland” brought in the highest bid.
“Sandy Corradi is not from Bradford, yet her heart is so full every year for The ELF Fund and the friends she’s made through The ELF Fund,” said Kristin Asinger during the auction.
Asinger and her husband, Tim, showcased the live auction and silent auction items during a livestream Thursday on the Festival of Trees Facebook page. The livestream was recorded at the Main Street Mercantile, which also allowed the organization to showcase items in a front window.
Kristin Asinger noted Corradi makes a beautiful tree every year to be auctioned off to support the organization.
Three other participants — Angela Nuzzo; Tina Baker and Kessel Construction; and Cadette Troop #26010, Brownie Troop #20335 and Daisy Troop #20029 led by Bonnie Leposa — brought strong competition to the Tree Challenge.
“It was a good event. Thank the Lord for Kristin and Tim Asinger,” said Gray, who noted they adjusted quickly to last-minute changes to the online auctions.
“We had some beautiful items. People were extremely patient and very understanding with tiny glitches,” she added.
Gray noted the basket raffle was popular, too. The basket raffle was set up in the Main Street Mercantile and was the only in-person portion of the event.
She added that two of the larger items — two handcrafted wooden swings donated by the Federal Correctional Institute at McKean — were won by local people. Another popular item — a Shop Local Tree adorned with gift certificates and lottery tickets — brought the winning bidder a small amount of lottery ticket winnings.
Altogether, the event brought in close to $5,100.
In addition to help from the Main Street Mercantile, the Asingers and the supportive community, Gray said a great deal of behind-the-scene support was offered by the Festival of Trees committee members: Cheri O’Mara, Cathy Zapel, Kaitlyn Giordano, Elise Elderkin, Karen King and Kendra Pantuso.
The committee is already working on a theme for next year’s event.
As for The ELF Fund’s Christmas gift program, there are still tags at local businesses just waiting for a volunteer gift buyer to pick it up and fill it.
Businesses that volunteered to put out tags include Tops Friendly Market, Walmart, Bella Capelli, and banks including Northwest Bank and Hamlin Bank. Anyone who can’t find a tag is welcome to message the ELF Fund Facebook page.
The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford has volunteered use of the former St. Bernard School at 450 W. Washington St. as this year’s ELF Fund headquarters.
Anyone who bought a gift can drop off the wrapped gift and tag at 450 W. Washington St. at the following times: noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 1-3 and 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 5. Gifts need to be dropped off promptly, as volunteers will begin shopping for unfilled tags right at noon on Dec. 5.
Gifts distribution day is Dec. 11.
Gray noted that both gift drop-off days and distribution day will be made as contactless as possible.
People dropping off gifts will be able to pull up to the building, where volunteers wearing masks will come outside to grab the gifts. Similarly, gift recipients can pull right up and volunteers will bring gifts right to their vehicles.