Deck The Trees announces winners, record-setting donation total

Libba Fairleigh and Katherine Achtemeier
Special to the Black Mountain News
The star on Girl Scout Troop 02498's Christmas tree.

The good people of Black Mountain made Deck The Trees happen.

Our theme, "And A Star Appeared," could not have been more perfect or prescient. Could there have ever been a better theme for a year when Saturn and Jupiter would be so close together as to almost be observed as one? Could anyone have predicted the number of stars in our Swannanoa Valley who would show their generosity through their support of this cause?

For the first time in its 10-year history, Deck The Trees gave Black Mountain and Swannanoa the joy of 35 trees spread throughout the community, and doing so was a glorious success. Twenty merchants were thrilled for their first opportunity to host their own tree in their business, while 15 organizations displayed their tree at the Monte Vista Boutique Hotel. Their efforts shone a light of hope and generosity in the midst of this most unusual and difficult year with the beneficiary of ALL of their efforts being the Fuel Fund of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry.

STARS included teachers and school personnel, health care workers and first responders, veterans, fire department personnel, the famous and the not so famous, a lawn service, dogs, cats, birds, books, wishes and dreams for the future, constellations, and thoughts to guide us. STARS were made by tatting, some were made with reeds, twigs, bamboo, toilet paper rolls, wood, clay, gingerbread, cardboard, recycled paper, glass, balsa wood, canvases, eye charts, papier mache, and lots and lots of glitter.

STARS for 2020 were also the 16 sponsors for Deck The Trees. These individuals and businesses so believed in the mission of Deck The Trees that even without knowing the details of how Deck The Trees would occur, supported the mission of Deck The Trees with a record amount of financial sponsorship. Every cent of every dollar they donated went to the Fuel Fund of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry. Sponsors for Deck The Trees included Sue Conlon and Barney Fitzpatrick (former owners of the Monte Vista Hotel), Highland Farms*, Mark Kleive, DDS*, Anonymous*, Edward Jones Financial (Scott Roy)*, Cheryl Keefer*, Sylvia McCollum, Parsec Financial, Semper Fi Custom, Symmetry Financial, Tyson Furniture Company*, Greybeard Realty*, Susan & Larry Harris*, Krista Anne’s*, Southeastern Sports Therapy*, and Stafford Home Builders*. The asterisk indicates they have been previous sponsors.

STARS included previous participants in the grand-opening Gala who donated to this year’s UN-Gala. Tuxedos and fancy clothes were not present the first Thursday night of December 2020, but a giving spirit abounded throughout all of December and into the new year.

STARS included The Black Mountain News who gave extensive coverage to this year’s Deck The Trees. STARS included Fred McCormick, The Valley Echo, and Jamie Hall of SVCM. Fred took photographs of each tree and Jamie Hall created a website with each tree highlighted. Voting was as easy as clicking on a tree, inserting a donation amount, credit card information, and hitting SEND.

Decorated trees fell naturally into two groups. One group included the 15 trees displayed at the Monte Vista Boutique Hotel. The second group included the 20 trees found in businesses throughout the community.

Each group was judged in two categories: the tree that most represented our theme, "And a Star Appeared," and the tree that raised the most funds.

STARS included the judges who selected the two trees which most represented the theme. Dr. Mark Kleive, a Deck The Trees sponsor since 2016, and his wife, Dr. Nicki Groves, were invited to be the judges for selecting the trees that Most Represent The Theme. Dr. Kleive, however, asked that Team Kleive be comprised of his wife, Nicki, Anne DeGennaro, Office Coordinator, and Sheri Kay, Coach for SKY Dental Practice Coaching. Their criteria for selecting the trees was multi-faceted: visual impact, heart-warming, uniqueness, memorable and meaningful, creativity, best interpretation of the theme, and tells a story.

Nicki wrote: “What a wonderful tour of our town today. Thank you for inviting us to join in this celebration.”

DeGennaro added: “the trees are beautiful and especially hope-inspiring this year.” Sheri Kay echoed the sentiments of the other judges, “It was an absolute delight to start at the Monte Vista and then weave our way through town to see the beautiful trees!  We kept commenting on how fortunate we are to live in this amazing and charming place ... it was definitely difficult to make a decision! I was so incredibly touched by the artistry, the stories being told through the trees, and the overall impact on my heart.”

Deck The Trees is happy to announce:

  • The tree at the Monte Vista Hotel chosen as Most Represents the Theme was the Black Mountain Beautification Committee’s tree. Runner-up was The Black Mountain Fire Department, with Girl Scout Troop 02498’s tree receiving an Honorable Mention for its heart-warming quality.
  • The tree in the community that Most Represents The Theme went to Sassafras on Sutton. Kilwin’s tree was selected as the Runner-Up.
  • The tree that raised the most money at the Monte Vista Boutique Hotel was the Black Mountain Fire Department. Buckeye Kennels was the Runner-Up.
  • The tree that raised the most money in the community was Kilwin’s. The tree at The Old Depot was the Runner-Up.

Thanks to the generosity of the Monte Vista Boutique Hotel, the winner in each category received an award of a $100 gift certificate to Milton’s at the Monte Vista Boutique Hotel.

Normally the Deck The Trees Committee only list the winners of each category, but in this year of a pandemic, they were struck that the focus of the trees that received the largest donations featured those who have helped us weather this year: Kilwin’s tree of health care workers, the Black Mountain Fire Department’s tree, reminding us of all First Responders, Buckeye Kennels, prompting us to recall the importance of cherished companions, and the Old Depot’s tree, featuring stars made and donated by local artists, whose generosity reminds us of the groundswell of generosity that has marked this community throughout this challenging year.

It is remarkable that during this pandemic year your time, effort, and generosity, along with the generosity of so many others, has made this difficult, challenging, mask-filled, socially-distancing year the single most successful year in Deck The Trees history. It is nothing short of a miracle that the record-breaking total amount donated by your Trees, the sponsors, and the Un-Gala to Deck The Trees for 2020 is $36,078.87.

Since Deck The Trees in its second year began raising money for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, the total donated to the Fuel Fund for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry is $151,083.87.

Indeed Black Mountain is a community of STARS.