By Toni Garrard Clay
Each year, members of the ETMC Athens Auxiliary put up a beautiful tree in the lobby of the hospital. It’s not only a lovely Christmas tree; it’s a giving tree.
The annual Blessed Christmas Tree is a major fundraiser for the auxiliary’s nursing scholarships. A donation of any amount results in a card being placed on the tree bearing the name of a loved one – either in that person’s honor or memory.
“Putting a card on the Blessed Christmas Tree is way of experiencing the blessing of investing in the lives of others,” explained Mary Bess, who along with her husband, C.W., coordinates the fundraising effort. “If someone wants to help us to train and prepare more nurses to strengthen our hospital, this is a wonderful opportunity to do so – and at the same time honor a loved one.”
Through the tree and many other fundraising efforts, the auxiliary awards scholarships each year to nursing students at Trinity Valley Community College or UT Tyler and satellite campuses.
The auxiliary raises at least $30,000 annually to fund nursing scholarships. In return, recipients commit to working at ETMC Athens upon graduation. The Besses mailed out around 150 invitations inviting people to make a donation to the tree, including previous participants, area businesses, and members of the medical community.
“One hundred percent of the contributions go to the scholarship program,” said Mrs. Bess. “We’d like to see as much participation as possible.” Anyone interested in making a donation and having a loved one’s name placed on the tree – either in honor of or memory of – can stop by the hospital and speak to an auxiliary member, either at the table set up next to the tree or in the gift shop; or mail the donation and loved one’s name to ETMC Athens, 2000 S. Palestine, Athens, TX 75751, Attention: Auxiliary Christmas Tree. The tree will remain in the lobby until just after the New Year.