RiverWoods Supports Exeter’s Festival of Trees

Since our founding in 1994, RiverWoods has contributed to the greater community, both as individuals and as an organization. RiverWoods employees and residents are involved in many causes throughout the greater Seacoast area and are known for their charitable work. One of our employees, Linda Safford, talks about her involvement with the Festival of Trees and the contribution RiverWoods has made to the fundraising event.

A Spectacular Holiday Tradition 

What is normally an extravagant and festive celebration, bringing thousands of people to visit and bid on beautifully decorated trees at the Old Exeter Town Hall, the Festival of Trees event in Exeter, NH, unfortunately, could not take place in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the committee members for the fund-raising event had to change plans. How could they solicit donations that are so needed for the Community Children’s Fund and still keep people safe?

Linda Safford, who is on the RiverWoods fitness team, has been involved in the Festival of Trees for twenty of the twenty-two years since it began in 1998. “I’m not sure how I got involved, initially,” she said. “Someone must have just invited me to be on the committee.”

In a normal year, when there isn’t a pandemic, The Festival of Trees showcases 52 trees. “It’s a wonderful event and shows the generosity of the community,” said Safford. “It’s a celebration of what can happen when people work together for a greater good.” It generally falls on the Thursday after Thanksgiving, when Santa is in town, and around the same time as the Christmas parade. “It really kicks off the holiday season in the right way,” Safford added.

The 52 trees are donated by Ace Hardware along with the stands. Local people and businesses purchase the trees and decorate them, after which they are auctioned off. The highest bidder gets the tree and can either keep it or donate it to someone else. During the open house to see the trees, tickets are sold for raffling off one tree to a lucky winner. See a time-lapse video of the event from two years ago.

Online Fundraising Was a Huge Success

This year, the committee began discussing in the summertime what they could do in place of the in-person event. Making use of social media, the committee began requesting donations via their website, Instagram, Facebook, and through mailings. Rather than decorating 52 trees, the committee decided to raffle off two decorated trees, displayed at Ace Hardware and Shooter’s Pub. Discussions were all done virtually. “By now we work as a well-oiled machine,” Safford explained, “so it all went perfectly.”

Ace Hardware tree raffle
Ace Hardware tree raffle
Shooter's Pub tree raffle
Shooter’s Pub tree raffle

The community opened their hearts and their wallets again this year. They met the goal of $35,000 by December 7, and days later donations were still coming in, increasing the amount to above $36,000.

The money raised goes towards purchasing warm coats and boots as well as blankets for children in need. Many donors help make this possible, and include among others local nurseries, banks, restaurants, realtors, and individuals throughout the seacoast area.

RiverWoods is involved every year as a donor and provides transportation for residents to visit the event. It’s one of the many charities RiverWoods participates in and is in keeping with the RiverWoods mission of participating in the larger community and embodying the “not for self” core value.

Tree donated by RiverWoods in 2019
Tree decorated by RiverWoods in 2019