By TRAVIS MORSE
---- — MT. VERNON — The United Methodist Children’s Home will hold its annual Live Nativity and Festival of Trees from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
Bobby Mooney, spiritual life and volunteer coordinator for UMCH, said the celebration is not only one of the home’s longest running events, but has also become a much-beloved tradition in the community.
“People look forward to it all year. They bring their kids,” Mooney said. “We try to position it in the year (so it’s) a kickoff to the Christmas season in a positive way.”
The Live Nativity portion of the event is in its ninth year and the Festival of Trees was added as a fundraiser for UMCH about five years ago.
Both programs are free and take place at the UMCH Main Campus at 2023 Richview Road.
However, funds are raised through a silent auction held during the Festival of Trees. The auction allows bidders to purchase decorated trees that are part of the festival.
This year’s Live Nativity will feature four still-life scenes performed by live volunteers along the circle drive outside UMCH.
The public can drive along the campus property to view the scenes or get out and walk.
One of the scenes depicts Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem and another features Joseph, Mary, the Baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men.
Also, new to this year’s celebration will be a petting zoo outside with ponies and goats, said Marcus Holland, development coordinator for UMCH. Hot chocolate will also be served.
“It’s a great event for the holidays,” Holland said. “The event is exciting for everybody.”
The decorated trees for the Festival of Trees will be displayed inside the UMCH chapel complex and conference room.
All the trees are decorated and donated by local schools and organizations. Last year, 34 trees were provided and this year organizers are expecting close to 30.
Ina Grade School is donating nine trees for this year’s celebration. District 80 and various churches and groups are also contributing trees, Holland said.
The public will vote on the “Best Decorated Tree” at the festival. The classroom with the most votes will receive a pizza party.
Holland said festival proceeds benefit UMCH programs and services for area children and families.
The facility offers a residential treatment program for young adults. In addition, UMCH has several off-campus programs, including outpatient counseling, day care, foster care and a program to help at-risk mothers.
Mooney said it takes about 55 to 60 volunteers to put on the Live Nativity and Festival of Trees.
Most of the volunteers are UMCH clients, as well as staff and their families. The Friends of UMCH Auxiliary also serves a hot meal for the children and staff members volunteering.
“It’s a lot of different moving parts,” Mooney said.
The young people staying at UMCH look forward to volunteering for the event each year, Mooney said.
The goal of the celebration is to connect the original Christmas with a modern audience, Mooney said.
“It goes really well with our mission and our legacy and the message that we’re trying to send to the community,” Mooney said.
If you would like to donate a decorated tree for the festival, contact Holland at 242-1070, ext. 234.