Home / Features / Arts & Entertainment / ‘Trees of Hope’
Monday, Nov. 9, 2015

‘Trees of Hope’


Holiday decorating gets competitive for Sam’s Town contest

This holiday season, some competitive tree trimming will give back to nonprofits.

Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino’s seventh “Trees of Hope” Christmas tree decorating contest is kicking off to raise awareness and funds for charities in Shreveport-Bossier City.

The competition awards a cash prize to the winners, with a $5,000 grand prize, $2,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place. Charities who do not make the top three do not go home empty handed. Sam’s Town awards $100 to every organization that competes.

“It’s a way for us to give back to the community and give back to the charities and bring recognition to these organizations and what they do,” Sam’s Town promotions and event manager Brian Stives said.

Participants can begin setting up their trees at 8 a.m. Nov. 23 and must be finished by noon Nov. 25.

The trees will be on display in the pavilion area near Sam’s Town Live.

The public can vote for their favorite tree from Nov. 27-Dec. 10. A table will be set up in the pavilion with voting cards and a ballot box.

The staff at the Gingerbread House, which won first prize in last year’s competition and second place in 2013, looks forward to the event.

“We love any opportunity that we have to get awareness out into the community about the Gingerbread House and our services for child abuse victims,” Gingerbread House Executive Director Jessica Milan Miller said.

Miller said the funds won in past “Trees of Hope” competitions were used to help the organization continue to provide free counseling services to child victims of abuse.

“When you work in a field such as ours, you see so many sad things day in and day out,” Miller said. “We always like to say that Christmas is the one time of the year when we get to experience the joy of happy tears, so that’s really special for us.”

Winning money is important to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana, because the nonprofit is completely reliant on donations. Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana director of development Meg Goorley said the organization served 75,000 unduplicated individuals last year.

“The Food Bank is not a government program and so everything we get – whether it’s food, or money to put gas in the trucks … we get from businesses or individuals, churches, foundations or grants,” Goorley said.

The Food Bank of NWLA placed third last year with a Louisiana seafood themed tree designed by Ralph & Kacoo’s seafood restaurant. The tree was decorated with crawfish, crabs, peppers, oyster shells, recipes and fishing net. The charity and the eatery teamed up after Goorley saw the decorated Christmas trees the restaurant keeps up yearround. She said the partnership makes sense.

“We are the Food Bank and they serve food,” she said.

Many of the participants also place small signs near their trees that contain information about their organization and its mission.

“It’s a bit of nice publicity for the people who come to the casino. Most of them truly are from out of town,” Goorley said. “They get to see what nonprofits are here.”

Other charities participating in this year’s “Trees of Hope” event include the Salvation Army, Blue Forever, the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, Volunteers for Youth Justice, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Women’s Auxiliary, the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, WERLA (Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation of Louisiana) and Rutherford House.

The teens at Rutherford House help decorate the organization’s tree. “They enjoy doing anything that helps other people or other organizations,” Judy West, secretary to the director of Rutherford House, said.

West said the funds would be used for a special treat or activity for the children if Rutherford House were to win this year.

An awards ceremony the winners will be held in the Sam’s Town Shreveport pavilion at 7 p.m. Dec. 11. The trees will be on display through Christmas.

–Melissa Airhart


The Forum News