To keep an annual event going for 25 years is no easy feat, but if it's in support of a great cause, then the task becomes less daunting.
And when it's combined with the giving spirit of the holiday season, the results can be momentous.
"The event survives because every year, more and more people graduate into a special club they may not have been a member of before. They join the many who have lost someone who was very important in their lives and they want to honor and remember that loved one by pausing to think about them, light a candle and hear their name read during our Tree of Light event," explains Beth Logan, Hospice Savannah's director of marketing and volunteer services, as well as volunteer management mentor.
The idea for the Tree of Light was two-fold.
"The first and most important thing is to offer support and meaning to the bereaved during the holiday season," Logan says. "It can be a hard time to try to be joyful when you have lost a loved one. And the second is that the event raises funds for our Full Circle bereavement services freely offered to anyone in the community, regardless of the nature of the loss.
"Usually about 75 percent of the folks who come to our Full Circle center for bereavement counseling have no previous connection to Hospice Savannah or to any other hospice," she says.
Full Circle is comprised of three highly qualified bereavement counselors who provide support individually or through group sessions to children, teens and adults. There are separate groups for those who have lost a life partner or spouse, parents who have lost a newborn or infant, those whose loved one committed suicide and groups for folks further along in their grief journey who feel ready to start socializing again.
"Full Circle also provides an overnight children's grief camp each May called Camp Aloha," Logan adds. "It is an amazing experience for children to realize they are not alone in their grief journey and that others have lost a parent or sibling, too."
In the last few years, the event has taken place at Forsyth Park, but it's returning to Hospice House on Eisenhower Drive so the ceremony can be moved inside to the community education room in case of inclement weather.
"We truly are filling an unmet community need, and Tree of Light donations support individual and group counseling for children, teens and adults," Logan says of the event. "Many hospices throughout the United States hold some kind of holiday tree fundraising event."
Hospice Savannah was established 35 years ago as a not-for-profit, and is beloved by many in our community, "especially people who have utilized our services," Logan says.
"Tree of Light is a special event for those who feel the need to connect even further with the loved ones who have died and those who are looking for a greater community support within their grief journey," she says. "They find the experience very meaningful. I feel that the people who need to come, will come."
The event also helps shine a light on what 2015 has in store for Hospice Savannah, such as the opening of Demere Center for Living to house all the community services, including education, palliative care and grief support programs.
"But we are especially excited that it will also house the Edel Caregiver Institute, which will help folks become educated, informed caregivers from the time of their loved one's diagnosis," Logan says. "So many people feel completely overwhelmed when they are given a life-limiting diagnosis such as COPD, ALS, cancer, etc. But with good support, they can have a great quality of life. We want to help give people the education, knowledge and practical help they need to make this happen."
To support Hospice Savannah, Logan urges the community to "tell their friends and family members to not be afraid to call and get the help they need. The Hospice Medicare benefit pays for so much and there is such great help available.
"They can also support Hospice Savannah financially and by spreading the good news if you have used our services," she says. "The No. 1 thing we hear is, 'We wish we had called you earlier.'"