Avalon Hospice is hosting a mini Christmas tree decorating contest to help purchase gifts for patients.
The community is encouraged to visit local participating business to “vote” on mini Christmas trees decorated specially for the event.
There are no ballot votes, each $1 collected will count as a single vote.  The funds raised will go to help make this holiday season special, whether the patient is in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.  The event ends on Dec. 10.
“For families with a loved one on hospice, the grief and responsibility of hospice care can greatly diminish the usual holiday cheer,” Volunteer Coordinator Judi Hawkins said. “It doesn’t have to though.  
“Just because this person is at the end of their life doesn’t mean that we can’t help make them comfortable and share an unforgettable Christmas together.”  
The fundraiser helps provide gifts such as blankets, booties and lotions.
“We want to make sure everyone has something to open this holiday season,” Hawkins said.
Participating businesses include: Audacious Boutique, FSCC Pittsburg Cosmetology, Angelic Boutique and Treasures, The Beauty Bar, Jocks Nitch and Arma Care.
The contest is part of Avalon’s “Fall into the Holidays” campaign.  Throughout the years the organization implemented many fundraisers, from selling Hurts donuts to handmade angel ornaments.
“We know it’s important to not forget the decorations,” Hawkins said. “There’s nothing like a Christmas tree to make a personal space feel like Santa is coming.
“Every tree decorated will be donated to a hospice patient.”
Fort Scott Community College Pittsburg Cosmetology decorated their tree Cosmetology-themed with little glitter ball ornaments that have scissors and combs on them, little glitter roller sets and a glitter comb at the top.
“We wanted to participate to help out and give back a little bit around Christmas time,” Cosmetology student Caity McQuegge said.  
Audacious Boutique’s tree is silver and gold with a letter ‘A’ atop the tree. Store Owner Kelly Sigg said, as a cancer survivor she wants to help people who have cancer and other illnesses.  
“You want to make the last days the most pleasant days,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful people come in to help those families.”
The tree at Jock’s Nitch is Pittsburg State University-themed with the Gorilla Split face sprinkled through the tree and an American flag on top. Store Manager Scott Ozier said participating in the event was a good way to help out during the patient's’ time of need. Personally, the event hits close to home as his family had recently lost a loved one while on hospice.
Outside of the fundraiser, the hospice volunteers will make homemade cookies for the patients.
“Some of the best holiday memories and traditions are those that involve food, especially Christmas cookies,” Hawkins said. “It is important to Avalon Hospice staff and volunteers, to do what we can to make sure that those who may be having their last Christmas, know that people truly care.”
Hawkins said she encourages people to become a volunteer, which will help Avalon continue to provide these services to the patients. If people wish to volunteer they may contact Hawkins at 620-231-8000.
“Becoming a hospice volunteer may seem as it would be a difficult thing, but I cannot express how rewarding volunteers will tell you it is,” she said. “Every day you get to work with people that are very compassionate, kind, helpful, and just have big hearts.
“Those that are apprehensive about Hospice initially, worried it may be depressing — it is the complete opposite.  It is rewarding, it feels good to know that you have helped to make someone’s last days the best possible.”
As a volunteer coordinator, Hawkins visits with patients. Last year, she watched westerns with a patient and talked about his family tree.
“As a volunteer coordinator I will personally go out and visit with patients,” she said. “There was a gentleman last year that I sat with for months.  
“In the beginning we would watch westerns and talk about his family tree.  
“In the end there were days we would just sit silently together. The last time I was with him he said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to get to know me.’”
Hawkins said it was an honor and a privilege to be welcomed into his life.
“For me, this is what it is all about,” she said. “Taking the time to get to know somebody.
“It is peace, comfort, and dignity.
“It is important to note that I believe that hospice volunteering is a multitude of givings. Whether you are volunteering in the office, visiting with patients, a community member helping by purchasing a handmade ornament or a business participating in our Mini Christmas Tree Contest — it is all important.  You can never go wrong when you are giving back to your community.”
Hawkins shared her appreciation for all of the Avalon Hospice volunteers in the community.
“We at Avalon Hospice could not do what we do, without the giving hearts of our volunteers and amazing community,” she said. “I tell all of my new volunteers that I can’t imaging working in anything other than hospice.  
“The people you meet, the life stories you get to hear, and the people you are blessed to meet.  You are never in bad company.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.