As kids trick-or-treated around Kokomo in their costumes on Sunday evening, Christmas music was piping through the speakers at Markland Mall.

And the music made the perfect backdrop to the hundreds of people inside ornately decorating Christmas trees for the annual We Care Trim-A-Tree Festival.

Coordinator Mariesa Skogland said it may have been Halloween outside, but Christmas was in full swing inside the mall, which has held the event for the last seven years.

“Everyone is in the Christmas spirit and the giving spirit,” she said. “Everyone is excited to be here.”

That was especially true this year, considering last year’s festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Skogland said all the trees had been purchased and all the groups registered to decorate them when they called off the event.

Now, those same groups were inside the mall on Sunday after a year hiatus.

For Trenton Haley, coming back to decorate a tree felt a little like coming home. He said his family has done a tree for the festival for 10 years, so missing last year was hard.

“It was very disappointing,” he said. “This is something that a lot of people depend on, and we love to get together and do this.”

Haley decided to come back this year with a vengeance. Not only did he help his family. He also volunteered to decorate a tree for his employer, Paradigm Health. But, Haley said, he was more than happy to have the extra work.

“It feels good,” he said while wearing a Christmas elf had and sporting a vintage We Care sweater. “It feels like some normalcy, and I think We Care will bring that to a lot of people.”

While veteran tree decorators like Haley put the finishing touches on their tress, festival newcomers Janie Farr and Tammy McCartney worked on their board-game-themed tree. Monopoly money and pieces were strung like lights, and a cloth checkerboard was used as the tree skirt.

The two managers at Broadway Liquor said they decided to join the festival this year as way to get more involved in the community.

“I love this,” Farr said. “It’s fun to put some of your ideas onto the tree.”

The Trim-A-Tree Festival is the annual kickoff to the We Care season. For two weeks the trees will adorn the mall, and patrons can vote for their favorite with a cash donation. On Nov. 14, the trees will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with all the donations going to We Care.

The We Care store also opened inside the mall selling its holiday staples such as sweatshirts, cheeseballs, Christmas ornaments and puzzles. The store will also sell the 2020-themed ornaments, puzzles and silver coins and bars that were ordered for last year before the event was canceled.

The festival also kicks of many We Care fundraisers held during the holiday season, which culminates with the annual 48-hour telethon the first weekend in December. This year marks the 49th year for the event.

We Care organizer Becky Varnel said they’re especially excited about the auction this year since it will be held inside the nonprofit’s new building at 1700 E. Sycamore St., which formerly housed an Aldi’s.

But on Sunday, Varnel was most excited about the Trim-A-Tree Festival coming back after a year that saw the world change amid the pandemic. She said after such a dark time, it felt good to know people still care about Kokomo and giving back through We Care.

“The world has changed,” she said. “It’s not the same as it was. But that doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t the same. There’s always people in our community that want to give and share and help those in need. That’s never going to change.”

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)



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