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For the past 15 holiday seasons, Owen Middle School students haven’t grown trees but instead made them. And instead of being placed in their own living rooms, these trees went to the homes of community members seeking a little extra holiday cheer.

Through the Little Trees Project, OMS students crafted short decorative trees, replete with special ornaments.

According to OMS art teacher Patti Lloyd, students first discussed the spirit of charity before diving into the arts and crafts of designing fashionable 3-foot tall artificial trees.

Students repurposed cardboard and holiday cards to manufacture ornaments, each containing a unique illustration or written message. Students based each tree around a theme. Past themes include Harry Potter, American veterans and a North Carolina tree featuring representations of the state bird (cardinal) and state flower (dogwood).

"As an educator, I am always looking for ways to give back to the community through the arts,” Lloyd said. “This project is a great way to do that.”

This year, Owen High School students joined in to make trees as well.

Community groups pitch in

The WNC Bridge Foundation, an Asheville-based organization promoting community wellness, purchases the little trees and design materials for the schools. In addition to Owen, the foundation provides trees to Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC, United Way of Asheville Buncombe County and MemoryCare.

The organizations then decorate the trees and pass them on to those in need.

“It’s a gift that keeps on giving,” said Natalie Clark, donor relations and communication director at WNC Bridge Foundation.

Bounty & Soul, the Black Mountain-based health and wellness nonprofit, helped students distribute finished trees to individuals and families.

This year, Bounty & Soul had to conduct a raffle because demand for the trees was so great.

“It absolutely brings holiday joy to people, said Karla Gardner, director of community engagement with Bounty & Soul.

Gardner mentioned that many little tree recipients live in apartments where they might lack space. In addition, interactions with neighbors may be limited. For these reasons and more, the little trees deliver a big jolt of happiness this and every holiday season.

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