'Good way to give to others': Festival of Trees sprouts at CPI

It wasn’t baubles that hung from the Christmas tree that represented the Centre County Library on Friday night.

Instead, books dangled from the tree, accompanied by Christmas lights.

Eight-year-old Avery Porterfield wanted to grab a book to read from the tree, but his mother, Constance Porterfield, said he could put a dollar in the jar by the tree instead.

“I guess that one’s his favorite,” Porterfield said.

That was one of 66 Christmas trees that filled a gymnasium area at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology at the annual Festival of Trees. Each tree represented a different participating organization in Centre County.

In its 19th year, the festival’s mission was to raise money for the Centre County United Way and its 35 partners agencies. Between $5,000 and $10,000 should be raised this year, said Beth Shaha, special events coordinator. About 2,000 visitors are expected to attend the weekend event, Shaha said.

“It’s a celebration and a way of giving back,” she said.

By Sunday, the winning trees would be named, Shaha said. The top three trees with the most money in the jar adjacent to the tree would win a cash prize.

Three years ago, the Centre County United Way took over the festival from the YMCA, but kept the same theme.

On Thursday night, people from the participating organizations set up the trees — some with specific themes.

On the Christmas tree sponsored by the Youth Services Bureau hung 1,000 paper cranes, also known as a Senbazuru.

Its message represented “flight and transformation,” and was created with the help of about 100 kids.

And on Sunday when the trees are taken down, about 50 will be donated to needy local families, Shaha said.

“It’s another good way to give to others and help meet the needs of needy families,” Shaha said.