Wednesday, November 19, 2008

'Verdant leaves' to benefit seniors

Senior Connection to host 11th annual festival

Express Staff Writer

Megan McMahon, a member of the Senior Connection board of directors and Midge Statsny enjoy the Festival of Trees.

One of the joys of the holiday season is the sight and smell of beautifully decorated pine trees. And for the 11th year the non-profit Senior Connection (formerly known as Blaine County Senior Connection) hosts one of the most joyous of affairs, the Festival of Trees. This year, it will be held at the Sun Valley Inn Limelight Room 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20.

The annual event is being held two weeks earlier than usual this year.

"A lot of people want to have their Christmas trees up by Thanksgiving," said Kimberly Coonis, executive director of the Senior Connection.

Indeed, the purchased trees will be decorating homes all over the valley.

The Festival of Trees annually attracts some 1,000 people, Coonis said. This year the honorary co-chairs are Linda Packer and Al Lindley. There will be a silent auction that will include some trees. Larry Flynn will handle the live auction for the 15 decorated trees and a golf and spa package for a week in Mexico. As well, there will be opportunities to sponsor a senior, for a week, month or year for Meals-on-Wheels and in-home care. The event will also boast the drawing for a $5,000 cash prize. R.L. Rowsey will provide piano and vocal entertainment during drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

The money raised at the event will help support the Meals-on-Wheels and the Outreach Program. In 2007 the connection served more than 14,620 meals. And within the past four years the Outreach Program grew by more than 900 percent. The organization has a $700,000 budget and only receives $35,000 from the State of Idaho. The rest is made up of donations and proceeds from the Festival of Trees.

"Our goal is to keep people in their homes as long as possible," Coonis said. "We work on a sliding scale for Meals on Wheels. We don't turn people away. We're really pushing physical fitness this fall and winter. Our new class is called Fit and Fall Proof. It focuses on core strength so they don't fall. Everyday we touch the lives of 75 to 150 people, depending on the day and season. Besides meals, we have home care programs here in Hailey and in Carey. We serve lunch four days a week in Hailey and one in Carey."

The Senior Connection is also in the middle of a building campaign to expand the entire space.

"We had private donors specifically for that," Coonis said. "We've out grown our space. We need this building desperately. There are key personnel in the basement."

Tickets maybe purchased at the Senior Connection and Pioneer Federal Credit in Hailey, First Bank of Idaho, Mountain West Bank, Panache in Sun Valley and Blaine County Fitness. There will also be tickets for sale at the door.

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