Festival of Trees enriches local nonprofits


St. Anthony Retreat and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno are no strangers to giving. Father John Greisbach and the Retreat’s staff in Three Rivers are dedicated to serving the Valley’s Catholic community and all who come calling, whether it’s an interdenominational Easter Sunrise Service, a group like Aging in Community looking for a place to meet, or the local jazz club that needs a unique venue for Jazzaffair and a place to accommodate the musicians.
The Festival of Trees, which just completed its third edition on Thursday, Nov. 16, was another sort of success. The gala Christmas tree and silent auction raised thousands of dollars for a couple dozen nonprofits and reminded the more than 400 who attended that nonprofits should be at the top of everyone’s holiday gift-giving list. 
This unique giving helps a host of charitable organizations who in turn pay it forward, giving gifts all year long.
The festive evening, which has become Darlene Mayfield’s signature event in her role as director of marketing at St. Anthony, is modeled after the Visalia Christmas Tree action held annually at the Visalia Convention Center. That black tie affair, sponsored and hosted by the Visalia Chamber of Commerce, now in its 36th year, has been and remains an enormous success. 
Mayfield, who formerly worked in marketing at the Visalia Chamber, is well acquainted as to what the Three Rivers event needs to be a success. 
“In Three Rivers, we’re still a work in progress, and I’ve found that some of things that work in the Valley just won’t work up here,” Mayfield said. “But we’re already raising thousands of dollars for local nonprofits so that is the best the event can be, as well as a fun evening for all who attend.”
Mayfield said that St. Anthony receives donations for their part from people all over the Valley.  
“We have a core group who are always willing to support whatever we do,” Mayfield said. “With sponsorships from the food-service providers and the local restaurants, our staff and facility costs are covered.”
Mayfield said the Festival of Trees is really all about giving back to the community and there is no better way to do that than to help the nonprofits. She credits her committee of volunteers, without whose help the evening would not be possible, let alone a success.
The 2017 event featured 13 trees, hand-created by members of the nonprofits who participated. Last year there were more trees and barely any room to move around.
“This year we had a few less trees and a kids’ corner where other charitable children’s organizations made wreaths to be auctioned,” Mayfield said. “Juarez Family Day Care of Hanford raised $250 for their efforts so there is another area where we can grow.”
Among local nonprofits, it was the decorated trees that garnered the most attention and fielded some impressive returns. First Baptist Church of Three Rivers was judged honorary ”Best of Show.”


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