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A Christmas tree lit with love

It's that time of year when love shines brightly at McDuffie Regional Medical Center through the generosity of others. The 26th annual Tree of Love caroling and lighting celebration took place Tuesday night on the front lawn of the hospital.

As the hospital auxiliary's feature fundraiser, the Tree of Love offers a way to pay tribute to special individuals while providing equipment for the hospital. Anyone can make a donation of at least $10 in memory of, or in honor of, a loved one, and that person's name is acknowledged with the donation, according to Eva Newsome, the director of volunteer services.

Not only does the tree serve as a living memorial, but the special lighting ceremony pays tribute to special individuals. This year, the honor went to June Ansley, who was an auxiliary member for many years, donating 3,771 hours of service.

"That's the most that anybody has donated, ever," Ms. Newsome said. "So, we wanted to honor her. She's a sweetheart. She's one of my volunteers and she's like Momma number two for me."

Now 87, Ms. Ansley lives in a personal care home in Gibson. Her daughter, Diane, from Stone Mountain, and her son, David, of Thomson, brought her to the tree lighting ceremony and helped her flip the light switch.

"I'm honored," Ms. Ansley said before the ceremony. "But I don't feel like I deserve it."

"She doesn't like being in the spotlight," her daughter explained.

The last time Ms. Ansley had been at the hospital was in January, two years ago. She said she volunteered up until that time, and had to quit when her eyesight and her health declined and prevented her from doing so.

"I liked working for Eva," she said. "I liked keeping the records in the gift shop."

Keeping the records was a natural for the honorary auxiliary member, who was a teacher at Pine Street and Thomson elementary schools for 34 years before she retired and became a volunteer.

Preschoolers from the Thomson First United Methodist Church sang Christmas carols during the ceremony. After the tree lights were turned on, a special ambulance delivered Santa, and children took turns sitting on his lap for photos.

Donations can be made to the Tree of Love at the hospital or via mail at Tree of Love, c/o McDuffie Regional Medical Center, 521 Hill Street, Thomson, Ga., 30824. Payments should be made out to Tree of Love. For more information, call Ms. Newsome at 706-597-5408.

Web posted on Thursday, December 04, 2008

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