News Staff Writer
ALPENA - Fifth grade classes from Alpena Public Schools and Immanuel Lutheran decorated seven Christmas trees throughout the Alpena Mall to raise money for local charities of choice. Mall owner Brian Winter said he came up with the new way to decorate the mall while giving back to the community, and wanted to get schools involved.
"The big thing we're trying to do here is create a place that's not just full of stores, but a place that people want to come to, a sense of community," Winter said.
News Photo by Emily Siegmon
Alpena Mall owner Brian Winter adjusts the sign on Immanuel Lutheran’s fifth grade class-decorated Christmas tree for a fundraising competition. The class is raising money for its charity of choice, the Huron Humane Society.
This month, the mall serves as a showcase for upper elementary students who creatively decorated Christmas trees and picked local charities to raise money for. Seven trees are now on display throughout the mall in front of local businesses, each tree has a sign with the schools name and the charity their of choice.
"Next year, we might expand it, or pick another grade level, but we're definitely planning on doing this event every year and building on it," Winter said.
According to mall Manager Jan VanWagoner, the community will have a significant role in the outcomes of the competition.
"People can come in and look at all of the trees and decide which one is their favorite, the voting ballots are inside each store that the trees are in front of," VanWagoner said. "People can put any amount of money in the box, but voting ends Dec. 31."
VanWagoner said all of the money raised will go directly to the specific charities, but the classroom that raises the most money will receive a prize.
"Whichever fifth grade class raises the most money will have a pizza party, compliments of the Alpena Mall. Everyone wins though, because all of the money goes to charity," VanWagoner said. "This is the first time we've done something like this. We thought Christmas would be the perfect opportunity to teach kids what giving is all about."
Winter said it was the first year of organizing, learning, scheduling, and coordinating the event. He said its successful, but is planning on developing a system for the future charity fundraisers.
"Each class brought their own supplies and decorated the tree, but we provided the lights and trees," Winter said. "It's a classroom activity that's relative to the holiday. We're proud to showcase their art and be a place where the community can enjoy it. We're the only enclosed mall in Northeast Michigan. We want to create a gathering environment."
Each donation box will go directly to the charity of choice, Friends Together, Hurricane Sandy Relief, Toys for Tots and the Huron Humane Society. The charities were chosen by fifth grade classrooms participating in the event from Besser, Lincoln, Wilson, Ella White, and Immanuel Lutheran, the winning class will have a pizza party.
VanWagoner said the mall also will host a variety of events this weekend and is hoping people will stop and vote for the best decorated tree. This weekend mall events include, an Alpena Child Care cookie walk on Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., gift wrapping Saturday and Sunday, Alpena City Band performance Saturday at 2 p.m., and a holiday arts and crafts show on Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sunday from 12-5 p.m.
Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5687.