Generosity and tears were flowing at the packed Markland Mall Sunday night during the first We Care fundraising event of 2019.
Trees and wreaths decorated by local businesses, organizations, families and even schools were auctioned off to raise money for local charities. The trees and wreaths were decorated in themes ranging from thanking veterans to Wizard of Oz.
One wreath was particularly emotional – wreath donated by We Care volunteer and former auctioneer, Herman McCombs. McCombs was given a We Care Award Sunday for his decades of service to the organization.
Trim-a-tree coordinator Mariesa Skogland told a story about her first year being coordinator and how McCombs helped her get through it.
“I was so overwhelmed and I told him, ‘I don’t think I can do this,’ and he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Yes, you can.’ And that’s how we’ve been doing it, and we couldn’t do anything of this without you,” she said.
McCombs’ family, and many We Care volunteers, were wiping away tears during the moment. Because McCombs wasn’t able to auction off the wreath himself, one of his sons did it. The wreath was auctioned off for $1,000.
Adam Smith McCombs, McCombs’ grandson, bought the wreath.
“It’s really exciting to have something to prolong his love for We Care,” he said. “My grandfather loves We Care so much and I’m proud of to have a piece of that.”
The total amount raised for the 27th Annual We Care-Trim-a-Tree Festival Auction wasn’t made available by press time Sunday, but just from the People’s Choice Award, which allowed people to vote for their favorite tree with coins or paper money, more than $8,000 was raised. The winner raised $1,324, Skogland said.
The Trim-A-Tree Festival was initiated in 1993 as an area in which additional groups, clubs and businesses would have an opportunity to volunteer for We Care. They transformed 19 artificial trees into fully decorated trees, each bearing a special theme. Those 19 trees raised $36,000.
Funds raised through We Care are donated to the Salvation Army, Bona Vista, Kokomo Rescue Mission, Mental Health America of Kokomo and Good Fellows, usually toward their Christmas programs, she said.
Skoglang, who has been involved with We Care for 26 years and coordinator for 14 years, said every year is a little emotional. This year is particularly so because, in addition to honoring McCombs, a wreath in the We Care Store was dedicated to three We Care Store volunteers who passed away in the last year.
“It is emotional, but in a good way,” she said. “There’s a lot of love here. This is a place where people can come and be themselves. All these people here are our family. That’s why I call it the We Care Family.”