Manassas Journal Messenger | Occoquan needs help with Christmas tree

Where is the holiday spirit this year amongst Occoquan’s friends and neighbors?

When Occoquan needed help stringing lights on its 25-foot-tall Tree of Hope last year, several businesses offered the use of their cherry pickers. The lights were strung and plenty of ornaments were “purchased” to decorate it.

While a cherry picker is not needed this year, the town once again does need help turning its town tree into one of hope.

“There are plenty of lights, just not many ornaments,” said Kathy Smith, a town merchant who spearheads the Tree of Hope drive each year.

Smith “sells” ornaments at her store, Simply Country, with all proceeds benefiting the homeless. Patrons sign their purchased ornaments then walk across Mill Street and hang them on the Tree of Hope.

Few have done so thus far this year.

“The tree really needs some help,” Smith said. “We’ve got a big problem and I don’t know what to do about solving it.”

Due to safety reasons, the old tree was replaced over the summer with a much smaller one, only about 8 feet tall. Turning the smaller town tree into one that evokes the holiday spirit of giving will take more than the 26 ornaments that have currently been purchased to decorate it.

“It’s really not decorated and I have 73 ornaments left,” Smith said. People have not been stopping by the store to “purchase” the ornaments as they have in years past.

Aside from evoking less of a festive holiday mood in the town, the sparsely decorated tree will also mean a smaller donation to area homeless.

Last year the Tree of Hope raised $900 for the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center Resident Rent Fund. The rent fund provides for the incidental expenses such as security deposits that can make the difference between a family being able to move into a house or remaining homeless, Smith said.

So far this year, only $190 has been raised and the Tree of Hope certainly doesn’t look like it is dressed in it’s holiday best.

Yet, with more than two weeks left in the holiday season, Smith is hopeful that Occoquan’s friends and neighbors will once again come through for the town and the needy families at the homeless prevention center.

The ornaments cost $5 for the smaller ones and $10 for the larger ones.

“Of course if anyone wants to donate more that would be great,” Smith said.

The ornaments will be available for “sale” through the end of the month. They can be found at Simply Country, 311 Mill St.


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