WHITMAN — With COVID-19 taking a toll on social interaction as well as public health, traditional fundraising projects by organizations like Dollars for Scholars, which depend in large part, on in-person events, collections, have taken a hit.
“Every year we raise a lot of money for the seniors in Whitman and Hanson through fundraising and door-to-door,” DFS member Michelle LaMattina told Selectmen on Oct. 20 before their vote to support the project. “Obviously, this year it’s going to be very tough to fundraise because of COVID, so we’ve been trying to come up with some new ideas.”
LaMattina, whose daughter Claire raised about $17,000 for the Whitman Food Pantry “remotely” through a Whitman Strong yard sign effort, thought up a way to raise funds in a similar manner while celebrating the holiday season.
“We’re trying to make something exciting for the town to look forward to,” said. DFS volunteer Michelle LaMattina.
A Holiday Tree Lighting event begins from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 to Sunday, Dec. 6 and again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11 to Sunday, Dec. 13. Masks and social distancing are required and the public is asked to stay outside the gated area of the baseball field where the trees are set up except for display times.
Individuals, families, neighborhoods, clubs, organizations or companies to were able to sponsor a tree for $100. DFS provided the trees and lights, setting them up after Thanksgiving. Sign-up times were allotted to tree sponsors to come and decorate the tree to their liking, LaMattina said.
Monday’s wind-driven rain also delivered a blow to this new effort, setting the project back a bit, but the show must go on and — with organizers and volunteers working Tuesday to repair the damage.
Some, such as a Giving Tree featuring mittens and other wearables, had packaged them in zipper-close plastic bags. Others like the Fanilows of Hanson made certain their ode to Barry Manilow stayed decorated with wires. They wore red team T-shirts and Manilow face masks as they decorated their tree, situated next to a Charlie Brown Tree.
“He’s special,” said Jen Hickey or Manilow. “He’s not for everybody.”
“…And he wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas,” added Jean Dean.
Hickey said the DFS Committee gave each tree sponsor 90 minutes to do their decorating in small, distanced numbers.
“This was a great idea for fundraising,” one of the Fanilows said.
LaMattina said the response was overwhelming with 50 trees sold.
“If I had another 30, I could have sold them,” she said, noting people were calling her Saturday to ask about decorating a tree.
“Whether you want to drive around, if you want to get out of your car — but we will have DFS volunteers making sure there aren’t groups of people congregating,” LaMattina said.