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Love INC hosts Christmas Tree Forest in Worthington

More than a dozen trees will be creatively decorated and displayed during the ninth annual Christmas Tree Forest, open from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the First United Methodist Church, Worthington.

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This beautifully decorated Christmas tree was one of the entries in the 2018 Christmas Tree Forest, a fundraiser for Love INC. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) will host its ninth annual Christmas Tree Forest fundraiser Tuesday through Thursday at the First United Methodist Church in Worthington.

Setting the scene for the season, the event features more than a dozen creatively decorated Christmas trees set along a winding path through church’s gathering hall. Christmas music will be playing as visitors stroll through the winter-like scene and, at the end of the trail, hot cider and cookies await. On Wednesday, the children’s choir, El Sistema, will sing at 4 p.m. Other musical groups may be scheduled as well.

A mixture of local businesses, community organizations and church youth groups have come together to decorate trees for this year’s event and, as Love INC Executive Director Greg Wede notes, there is still plenty of room if any groups would like to participate. Tree decorating will begin Monday and continue into Tuesday.

The theme for this year’s Christmas Tree Forest is “My People Shall Know My Name,” taken from Isaiah 52:6. While the hope is that trees will be decorated to fit that theme, it isn’t a requirement.

Though the event is free for all to attend, visitors are invited to purchase tickets ($1 each) and vote for their favorite trees by placing their tickets in the corresponding buckets. All of the money donated goes to support Love INC, and the trees with the largest share of tickets are recognized.

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“It started out as a fairly decent fundraiser,” said Wede, noting that today, the event is as much about exposure to Love INC and its work in the community.

“Most of Love INC’s support comes through donations,” he said. “Some people come in and make their donations for the year through this campaign.”

Love INC is a partnership of 19 local churches, all of whom provide volunteers and/or donations to help those most in need in the community. The gap ministries include everything from furniture and baby clothes to bed and bath linens, household cleaning supplies, personal care items and laundry and dish soap. In addition, there’s a widow’s ministry and a ride ministry.

Wede said the greatest needs among those requesting assistance are regular-sized twin beds, washers and dryers and volunteer drivers to provide rides for people to get to appointments.

“The need is pretty constant,” Wede said, noting that the organization assists, on average, 200 to 300 individuals or families each year.

The Christmas Tree Forest is open from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the First United Methodist Church, 408 11th St., Worthington. Anyone interested in still decorating a tree for the event is asked to contact the Love INC office at 727-7291. There is no registration fee to participate. Groups must provide their own tree and do set-up and removal. Electricity and a decorated donation box will be provided.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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