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Christmas Jubilee delivers holiday joy to cancer patients

By Janelle Fisher
Staff writer
– The corner of N. Washington and Pine streets is aglow with more than 100 festive wreaths this holiday season, each one decorated with care.

The wreaths are part of a project called Christmas Jubilee, chaired by Vicki Haworth, Stacey Kolze and Barb Pahnke.

Once the exhibit is over, each of those wreaths will adorn the door of a local individual undergoing cancer treatment.

Haworth said the project actually benefits local cancer patients in more than one way.

“It’s actually an event organized underneath Ribbon of Hope,” she said. “Ribbon of Hope is a local breast cancer organization. All of these proceeds will go back to benefit that organization. However, all of the wreaths that are on display are donated to those in our community that are affected by cancer and undergoing cancer treatments currently. So the display is up from now until Dec. 1 and then we will be making deliveries of all of those wreaths to people in the community so they can enjoy them for Christmas.”

Kolze said it’s “the amount of joy that we give to the cancer recipients in our area” that makes the project worthwhile.

“Merry Rexmas,” one of the kids’ wreaths, was designed by Kayla Michael. Adam LeSage/Defining78 photo

Before COVID, the project put together a display of Christmas trees to be donated to local cancer patients, but with concerns about delivering trees into the homes of individuals with weakened immune systems, wreaths offered a fun — and safer — way to keep the festivities going.

“When we did the trees, we had to have two or three people physically go into somebody’s home and set up the tree,” Haworth said. “They were already decorated, but when we had them all done, we were going to their homes to set them up for them. And somebody who is going through treatment has a weakened immune system and sometimes the less exposure to people the better. With the wreaths, for those people that are really sensitive with their immune system, we can simply hang a wreath on their door or leave it on their front steps for them to hang up, either inside or outside, and we can kind of avoid that direct contact that could potentially risk them becoming ill.”

The switch from trees to wreaths, Haworth said, has also meant more members of the community can view the display before the wreaths are distributed.

“When it was a tree event, there was an actual event,” she said. “So we had limited capacity for how many people could attend and even see the trees. The reason that we’ve kind of stuck with wreaths, even past the height of the pandemic, is because we really have found that it brings a lot of people in the community together and so many more people can enjoy the display. So we’re getting a lot more awareness for our organization, and it’s a nice thing for the community.”

Each wreath on display is sponsored by a local business or individual, either decorated by them or by a team of volunteers working with Christmas Jubilee.

“We have companies or people that sponsor a wreath,” Kolze said. “And then from there we have another list of people that want to decorate those wreaths if the sponsor doesn’t want to decorate. We have decorators that just in their heart want to do this because it’s a fun project.”

Sponsors can decorate their wreaths however they like, but Haworth said they try their best to honor the requests of the cancer patients who will be receiving them.

“They’re providing all of the decorations on the wreaths and they’re choosing their designs,” she said.
“They can use their creativity however they choose. In some cases, we do ask for people to make some specific wreaths — like if we know of a situation where there’s children who have special requests of dinosaurs or things like that.”

The wreaths that are destined to decorate the homes of children fighting cancer, Kolze said, have a special place in this year’s exhibit.

“I can’t stress enough how cute the kid’s wreaths are,” she said. “Those are usually the special ones where we get the requests of ‘I like Yoda,’ or ‘I like this.’ So you’ll see there’s one room specifically designated in the beginning where it’s all children’s wreaths.”

The wreath display will be lit up each day through Dec. 1 starting at dusk into the early hours of the morning for the public to view in the old Prance’s building — which may invoke a feeling of nostalgia for those who remember the store’s elaborate Christmas displays that once filled those same windows.

“I think a lot of people have happy memories of Prange’s,” Haworth said. “Those windows are where our display is right now. So people that have been in the community for a long time remember the display in their window at Christmas time. And this is kind of like reminiscing for them to have something there to come and look at and get in the holiday spirit.”

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