AUGUSTA, Maine — This week, the Augusta Elks Lodge is hosting its second annual Festival of Trees fundraiser. This year, 35 individually-themed trees are being raffled. Each tree was either donated or sponsored by local businesses or individuals.
All proceeds raised will be donated to Bread of Life Ministries, a nonprofit based in Augusta. Bread of Life is an organization made up of a soup kitchen, two shelters, and more than 80 housing units in the Augusta area.
"The need is even stronger in our community more than ever," Lorana Laliberte, Augusta Elks member, said.
"We've never fed this many people out of our soup kitchen," Victoria Abbott, executive director of Bread of Life, said.
Abbott said the need they're seeing this year is nearly double what it was last year.
"Its humbling and I think it's something a lot of us tend to take for granted that we have heat in our car, we have a car, we have heat in our home, we have snacks, meals any time we want," Abbott said.
Laliberte said no effort of giving is too small.
"A great way to give is giving of my time," Laliberte said.
"We really look forward to this event every year it just gets bigger and bigger," Vicki Rodrigue, Augusta Elks member, said.
The event kicked off Tuesday and goes through Saturday. It will be open Tuesday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There will also be a special guest appearance from Santa Thursday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be face painting on Saturday.
Admission is $2 per person and it costs $5 for 10 raffle tickets. There will also be a 50/50 raffle, bake sale, hot dog stand, popcorn, and hot chocolate available to purchase.
"As of yesterday, our numbers are more than double the first day last year, so we're very optimistic," Laliberte said.
Laliberte added that with 35 trees being raffled, there's a little something for everyone.
"There's several trees that are focused on kids' toys and activities, there's cooking trees and sporting trees," Laliberte said.
While there's plenty of excitement over the possibility of winning big, like lottery tickets, a new TV, or even a laptop, the event serves as an important reminder of what this time of year is all about.
"Christmas has so many meanings to so many different people, but in the end, I think the biggest meaning is love and kindness," Laliberte said.