5 QUICK QUESTIONS with Festival of Trees Lead Organizer Becky McGrath

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple recently caught up with Becky McGrath, lead organizer of We’re One Wilmington’s Festival of Trees, for five quick questions.

What’s it like planning one of Wilmington’s most popular community events?

“I have a lot of help; it’s certainly not just me. I’ve got an awesome team of 12 volunteers. For example, Karin Bloom takes care of the bake sale. Tammy McElligott handles all the decorating. Nathalie Hayduk takes care of all the entertainment. Jomarie O’Mahoney and Catherine Maiella take care of our Member Social. Jen Bolanos and Pam Almedia tag all the ornaments on the Angel Tree. And we have other team members as well helping out wherever they can. Planning starts in the summer. It’s hours and hours of work put in by tons of people. But it’s really a pleasure. They’re all amazing people to work with. We work really well together.”

Are there any changes to this year’s Festival of Trees compared to years past?

“Yes, the biggest change this year is we opened a day early, although not to the general public. The event is getting more and more crowded each year. We wanted to make it a more comfortable atmosphere for folks who might be older or need room for wheelchairs and walkers. We invited the Senior Center to come out on Friday morning. A couple of groups from Windsor Place are coming on Friday afternoon. The teachers and staff of Wilmington Public Schools have also been invited to come on Friday after school. Lots of the teachers don’t live in Wilmington, so they may not want to make the drive back to town on the weekend. There’s a lot of trees this year decorated by schools and student groups.”

How many donations are you anticipating this year?

“We’re estimating 118 donations, which includes 60-70 tall trees. It’s definitely a record year for donations. I think we’re reaching the maximum allowed for the venue. When you visit this weekend, just think of all the people — hundreds of community members — who put their heart and soul into these trees. We’re so grateful to the community.”

How many people attend Festival of Trees each year? Will the event ever outgrow Villanova Hall?

“Based on raffle ticket sales, we suspect about 2,000 people come through during the weekend. We really like where we are. The location keeps it feeling like a nice a community event. It’s so close to the Common. It’s really convenient for all the other activities going on, including the Town Tree Lighting on Saturday night and the Sons of Italy’s Breakfast with Santa on Sunday morning at the Knights of Columbus. It really is just the perfect spot. I think we’ll stay here, we just might have to cap the number of donations at 120, our magic number.”

How much does the Festival of Trees raise each year? Where do the funds go?

“Each year it climbs. The amount raised almost doubles each year, which is pretty amazing. Last year, after expenses, we cleared $50,000. And that’s without charging any admission fee — that’s raffle sales and bake sales.

The event’s proceeds allows We’re One Wilmington to do so many things. We recently made a $2,000 sponsorship to the Elderly Services Department’s new Memory Cafe. We sponsored the “Revive Civility” program at the Wilmington Memorial Library.  We purchase holiday gifts requested by Wilmington families. We’re supporting 21 families this year. We paid over $3,000 in utility bills for people in emergency financial need. We have care packages we send out to residents who are struggling financially or emotionally. We hand out $8,500 in scholarships annually. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

BONUS QUESTION: Which is your favorite tree this year?

“I have to admit, the cupcake tree is my favorite. It’s so adorable.”

Becky #2
Becky McGrath (bottom left) and some of her team of organizers.

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