Intermountain - Caring Solutions, Strong Families, Healthy Communities

Festival of Trees has banner year

Anonymous $100K donation brings auction’s total to more than $275K

By TALIA KNUDSEN Independent Record

This year was a banner year for Intermountain’s 25th annual Festival of Trees. Tree sales brought in $178,150 at the live auction held Friday night, then an anonymous donation of $100,000 brought the night’s total to $278,150. Funds raised by other efforts at the festival were estimated at $19,688.
Intermountain Director of Communications Glenna Wortman-Obie said the $100,000 donation came from an individual who has been very loyal over the years and has donated to Intermountain often. She said the donor wanted to add to the exciting atmosphere of the auction and leverage his donation to encourage people to give. The donation of $100,000 was announced at the closing of the auction.

“When you tell people what you do and they see how well you do it, they feel part of the mission,” Wortman-Obie said. “People give any way they can.”

She said Intermountain relies on the donations, however small, they receive each month all year long, as well as large donations, to provide services to emotionally disturbed children and their families. The funds raised by the festival will help purchase needed items for Intermountain’s newly constructed Community Services Center, slated to open in January, located at 3240 Dredge Drive. The center will consolidate child clinical services that are presently located all over Helena, and house administrative staff, she said.

Approximately 30 7-foot trees were auctioned at the live auction and about 150 small trees and 50 wreaths were auctioned during a silent auction held for the duration of the festival.

The top earning tree at the festival’s live auction, themed “Then and Now: 25 Years of Change,” brought in $21,750 after being purchased once, donated back, then purchased again. The tree was designed by Schlenker and McKittrick Architects as well as Diamond Construction employees. Schlenker and McKittrick Architects and Dane and Shea Gruber purchased the tree at the auction and donated it to Helena YWCA.

The top-earning tree, which also won the “Best of Theme” ribbon during the festival awards ceremony Thursday night, was accompanied by 25 years worth of reminiscent items, including an original Atari. Tim Meldrum, a partner at Schlenker and McKittrick, said the Atari was a popular item at the auction.

“It was exciting to watch everyone get excited at the auction. It is all about the kids — less about the flash and gifts and more about the kids,” Meldrum said.

The second-ranked earning tree was designed by members of the congregation of Sunrise Presbyterian Church in Great Falls. “Operation Noah/Montana Outdoors” was accompanied by a hand-made, 15-foot cedar and spruce canoe. This tree also sold twice and raised $12,000. The tree won the “President’s Choice” ribbon Thursday night.

The buyers of the tree, Neil and Carolyn Jenson of Montana City, bought three other trees as well. Carolyn Jenson said they donated the tree back to Intermountain Family Services and kept the canoe. Jenson said her husband is hoping to arrange a canoe outing with Intermountain children in the future.

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