By CRISTINA JANNEY
Two Hays women have been busy elves since June creating fantastic Christmas decorations to sell at the annual Arc Festival of Trees fundraiser.
The Arc in Hays Multipurpose Hall is filled with decorated Christmas trees, porches, table settings, panels and wreaths.
An online auction will run from Friday to November 17 and will benefit the final stop at Hays ARC Park – an accessible ball field. It will also be in Seven Hills Park.
The ball field is estimated between $ 600,000 and $ 700,000. The project raised approximately $ 40,000 for this phase of the project.
Donna McKenzie and Joan Heier were the creative talent behind most of the vacation settings.
Heier volunteered for the project last year. McKenzie has never volunteered with The Arc before, but has seen all of the wonderful creations that have been produced last year and donated some time to her this year.
Heier said that at the start of the project she was a little overwhelmed because the Arc had so much going on. Almost all of the items auctioned during the Festival of Trees are made from items donated to the Arc Thrift Store. The store reserves items year round for the project.
“You can see a piece, and it might be from five different collection boxes or it might have come at different times,” McKenzie said. “I started a tree and found a few that I want to add to the tree. As things happen, it keeps growing and growing.”
Heier said inspiration was everywhere.
“That was a lot of what you see. ‘I think I can work with that. I think I can do that. I have enough stuff to put this together,” she said.
A floor lamp entered the Arc from “A Christmas Story,” so a tree based on the movie had to be made, McKenzie said. The lamp, a sign and an ornament were donated. McKenzie made the rest of the tree decorations by hand from donated items.
The ladies have been very prolific in their work. Although a few others participated, the women did most of the decor themselves.
The Arc still counts the items and uploads the photos to the online auction portal. However, Kathy McAdoo, Arc’s executive director, estimated the project had over 200 elements this year, which is 30 to 50 more elements than last year.
Items range from large, fully decorated Christmas trees or a decorated wheelbarrow to a small rustic tabletop hut. There is something for every space and every budget, McAdoo said.
The women said they enjoyed working together, which included many eight-hour days in the past five months. Sometimes they just needed a second look at a project or four hands – and they had to learn to laugh at themselves, Heier said.
“It was so much fun, because every day you were learning something new about what you were working with and we were helping each other,” Heier said.
McKenzie took a week off from the project when her first grandson was born, but she said she missed her friend and missed work.
“Of course, I wanted to be home with my grandson, but I knew things were going on here without me,” she said as she and Heier burst out laughing.
McKenzie, who worked in a flower shop, said she believed her styles and Heier’s were complementary. McKenzie’s designs are more natural and rustic, like an old decorated wooden ladder or a wooden chair. Heier’s designs are more glamorous with lots of silver and gold and glitter.
It seems that no matter what the two ladies conceive of, they always come home covered in glitter, McKenzie joked. Her husband asked where it all came from.
McKenzie said one of his favorite projects is a Santa Claus walking through an antique window. She found a picture of Santa Claus on a stretched canvas. She washed the window with lime and added calligraphy to the top panel of the window.
The project also has a Hot Wheels shaft that includes a track going around the shaft.
The women had fun carrying out the projects, but they did not lose sight of the goal of raising funds for the ARC park. They considered having t-shirts made that said “Bid high, bid often”.
“It means a lot to me that I can contribute to this,” McKenzie said of ARC Park. “I’ve always been looking for a way to get involved here. This is where I can use my talents, and it can really grow and go into the ARC park.”
Before she started volunteering with The Arc, Heier said she didn’t realize the needs of the people the Arc serves and how many people need help.
“For me it’s very rewarding and I love what I’ve been able to do,” she said. “I made all these friends. Everything went well.”
The two women said they were very grateful for the generous donations to the Arc Thrift Store. Without them, the Festival of Trees would not be possible. Some of the items that were donated still had tags or were new in their boxes.
While all of the items for auction are available online, people can also view the items in person at the Arc office, 600 Main. Items can be viewed during Arc Thrift Store opening hours from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. during the auction. The thrift store is closed on Sunday.