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    (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf)

    Festival of Trees banner with list of sponsors below
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    (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf)

    View of several Christmas trees through window



CPAN’s Festival of Trees raises $44K for local children living in poverty

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday December 17, 2020

Despite its virtual format, the Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN) raised $44,000 and counting through it’s 9th annual Festival of Trees.

This is a beloved tradition for many in the community, but with such a different setup, organizers had no official expectations for how much they could raise. Nevertheless, the Nov. 21 event surpassed anything organizers could have imagined, slowly climbing towards last year’s tally of $48,617.

Typically, the fundraiser is a full-blown gala-style experience at the Petawawa Civic Centre with an astonishing Christmas wonderland of beautifully decorated Christmas trees.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 version was held online, allowing attendees to enjoy festive entertainment, fine charcuterie trays and wine from the comfort of home.

The Festival of Trees and its accompanying auction has been CPAN’s largest fundraiser, but with current prohibitions on gathering sizes, event organizers had to find an alternative.

“Seeing it all come together was amazing,” said CPAN Executive Director Lyn Smith. “Everybody had something very lovely to say, which was very heartwarming to me to feel the love.”

CPAN is not government funded and relies on donations to run it’s life-changing programs. And despite Canada unanimously signing its ‘End Child Poverty by the year 2000’ resolution in 1989, findings still show that more children are now living in poverty than 30 years ago.

Currently, about 2,590 local children are living in poverty. This amounts to an average of 15 per cent per municipality in Renfrew County, with some towns seeing up to 33 per cent.

Donations to CPAN’s programs help those children thrive despite their family’s income level. Even after the Festival of Trees raised so much, there is still a need for donations.

“We are happy with any help that you can give, and if you can’t give this year, it’s understandable,” said Smith.

She knows the generosity of the community will still shine through, however.

“When people hear there is a need, they come out,” said  Smith. “And they don’t come out saying, ‘Look at me, I’m generous.’ They just do it, very discreetly most of the time.”

One program CPAN is struggling with is with Operation Snowsuit. Every year hundreds of children require gently used, clean winter clothing. Yet due to the pandemic, there has not been a safe way for donated suits and winter gear to be collected and distributed.

“We are in need of people with trucks to travel the county in case we need anything out of area,” said Smith. “But what is more needed is safe places in the community to accept donations.”

There are four fire halls in the county that serve as drop sites, but Smith is hoping more places donate space as the schools and the CPAN office are now not available.

Though CPAN has had difficulties in 2020, their Festival of Trees still inspired some seasonal cheer, notably their beautiful Christmas Tree display, which was free for everyone to see. The trees were set up at 1375 Pembroke St. W. and each one ws designed by Diana Oberbacks.

“People were pulling into the carpark not knowing what these were ... but then realizing ‘Wow, these are uniquely decorated trees,’” said Smith.

All the trees were for sale with the proceeds going directly to CPAN. Some of the trees remain for sale on the event’s website.

“Every one of them is unique, you’ll never see another one like it,” said Smith. “No matter what size of place you have, or what colour scheme you have, there was one for you.”

A recording of the event will soon be released to the general public. Details will be posted online.

For more information, please visit www.festivaloftreescpan.ca.