Festival of Trees in Shelton aids senior services

It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas this weekend at the Shelton Senior Center — home once again to the Festival of Trees.

The annual event, now in its 16th year, featured more than 60 elaborately decorated holiday trees, wreaths and gift baskets spread throughout the center Saturday and Sunday. Proceeds from the Festival of Trees benefits TEAM, Inc.'s elderly services programs. Last year, the event raised some $10,000 for TEAM, Inc.

While admission was free, each person attending the Festival of Trees could purchase a sheet of tickets. People then put tickets in the basket at whichever tree, wreath or gift basket they want. The winners were chosen Sunday afternoon.

“This is the major fundraiser for TEAM in its efforts to help the elderly in the Valley,” said Ruth Frirhio, one of the event’s volunteer organizers.

“There was a point where there was a huge waiting list for Meals on Wheels … state funding had been cut, so money from this event helped to eliminate that wait list and get food to seniors,” said event volunteer Joan Kayser.

The festival featured more than 25 vendors, other activities for families and adults, and raffle tickets with more than 30 prizes to lucky winners that include decorated holiday trees, wreaths, baskets and a new television. The event also offered a chance to have a photo with Santa and Minnie Mouse.

TEAM, Inc. is a nonprofit human services organization serving the greater Valley and surrounding region, supporting and empowering individuals and families. The Festival of Trees will benefit TEAM elderly services. TEAM, Inc. offers visits, light housekeeping, outdoor landscaping work and rides to doctors, among other services, to senior citizens throughout the Valley.

“TEAM has volunteers that go out to assist those people with whatever assistance,” said Frirhio. “The funding from (the Festival of Trees) is a major component of meeting the overhead to do those types of things.”

Frirhio and Kayser were joined by the Festival of Trees organizing committee by event Chair Roger Spinelli, Pat Geissler, Ellen Shaw, Nancy Valentine and Stan Gorlo. People or companies sponsor a tree, which would decorated by the volunteers, or buy their own tree and decorate at the center. The volunteer crew spent all day Friday decorating trees and wreaths and preparing gift baskets to raffle off.

“Without this (Festival of Trees),” said Shaw, “so many seniors would not have the services they desperately need. It is worth the effort.”