Even though the lights are packed away, the spirit of Christmas-giving will continue all year at the McDuffie Regional Medical Center. Money from donations to sponsor a light on the Tree of Love at Christmas enables the hospital auxiliary to purchase items for the hospital as they are needed.
"We certainly appreciate the auxiliary handling the Tree of Love," said Douglas Keir, the CEO of the hospital. "They do such a wonderful job. And they do such a great job all year long, not just at Christmas time."
As the hospital board goes through their budgeting process each year, Mr. Keir said there are always items of minor equipment that simply cannot be funded. In other cases, he said, things sometimes break and need to be replaced in the middle of the year.
"And fortunately for us, we have programs like the Tree of Love that provide funding for those (situations)," he said. "So, the auxiliary has really done a great service for the hospital and for the community."
Donations this year totaled $3,595, according to Eva Newsome, the director of volunteer services and patient relations at MRMC. The amount is approximately $1,200 lower than last year's figure. Ms. Newsome said she noticed quite a few regular donors who cut back on the amount they gave.
"I guess the times are worrying them with whether or not they should spend quite as much," she said.
Ms. Newsome said each department in the hospital submits requests of their needs and the auxiliary approves the purchases. Funds from last year's Tree of Love provided four chairs for registration, two thermometers for the emergency department, a multi-magnification Lilyviewer for the radiology department, a porta pocket and two chairs for the surgical department, 28 dry erase boards, a bariatric chair, and a popcorn machine that is used for events such as Relay For Life and the American Heart Walk.
Not only a resource for the hospital, the Tree of Love also serves the community as a memorial and a way to honor loved ones throughout the year. Ms. Newsome said many times it is not practical for someone to send a $50 flower for a funeral.
"They can make a $10 or $20 donation to the Tree of Love and the family will get a notice that on the next Tree of Love, there will be a light placed in memory of that person," she said. "And we have quite a few people that do participate like that."
To do this, Ms. Newsome said simply make a check payable to "the Tree of Love" and mail it to the hospital any time in the year.
A tradition in the community for 24 years, the tree lighting ceremony has grown with the tree itself. Located in front of the portico, it is the second tree the hospital planted there for the project. The tree was approximately seven feet tall when first planted, and Mr. Keir estimates it is now 25 feet. Because it was too large to string with lights this year, Mr. Keir said they had to get a smaller tree, but they placed it near the large one.
"I told them we will just get another tree, we are not going to cut that one down," he said. "We're not going to replace this one, we'll just have to trim it. It's just too pretty."
In addition to the Tree of Love, the auxiliary members hold special sales for fundraisers, volunteer in the different hospital departments and assist patients. Anyone interested in joining the auxiliary should call Ray Wight at 706-597-9875.