Planning started in March when Kristina Cole, Kathy Houghton, Tina Gleich and I met to discuss the feasibility of making holiday centerpieces for Meals on Wheels. Steve Rudolph connected us with Jay Welenc who runs Meals on Wheels in Lebanon. Jay enthusiastically approved the project. Kristina volunteered take the lead assisted by Kathy. The centerpiece project was the perfect opportunity to adapt the club’s pandemic-abandoned plan to run a boxwood tree workshop in 2020. Right after Christmas in 2019, Elise Kendall and Sue Coakley purchased deeply discounted Christmas decorations—oodles of adorable Christmas decorations. The little bulbs, ornaments, and wired sticks sat in storage for almost three years. The club loves to reuse and repurpose items and ideas.
Kathy had the resourceful idea to repurpose mushroom containers, and asked club members to keep those containers for the centerpiece workshop. Thank you to all the folks who obviously ate lots of mushrooms. As a retired small business owner, Kristina has lots of contacts and used her connections to get mugs and other items needed for the centerpieces. One contact, Jamie Loura of COVER Home Repair in White River Junction, Vermont, donated 50 holiday mugs. Kristina, Kathy, Diane Cameron, Sue Berg, and I scoured thrift shops and bought Christmassy mugs. Between the mushroom containers and the mugs, we had more than enough bases for all the centerpieces.
Sweet smelling, fresh greens were needed and lots of them. Dotsy Miles accompanied Kathy and me to Balsam Woods Tree Farm and introduced us to the delightful owners Kristian and Sebastian Baca who graciously donated a large amount of freshly cut Balsam branches. (If you’re in the market for a Christmas tree or wreath, stop by Balsam Woods Tree farm at 240 Maple Street in Newport, NH which is opened on weekends.)
Kristina’s contact at Nicols Tree Farm Amy Nichols offered the club a nice discount. Jenny Gelfan walked around the farm with Kristina and helped her harvest perfect centerpiece-making boughs. (If you live in that area, consider checking out Nichols Tree Farm on 163 Dartmouth College Highway in Lyme, NH.)
We still weren't sure if we had enough greenery so got permission from Christine Cecchetti of Eastman Recreation to take some of the branches left over from their wreath making workshop. That greenery was pruned from the woods by the Eastman Maintenance Department. We ended up with more than we needed, but I am happy to report that ALL of it was put to good use.
Grantham’s own Recreation Department’s Emily Rinde-Thorsen ran Breakfast with Santa in the Town Hall the previous weekend and, when asked, left lots of her lovely decorations up to make our event even more festive. Of course none of this was possible without the Town of Grantham and the use of their wonderful facility.
The day before the event, a group of volunteers came to set up and load tables with green boughs, decorations, tubs and mugs. They soaked environmentally friendly Agra-wool and stuffed them in the tubs and mugs.
When December 8th finally arrived, lots of people showed up bringing in baked goods to share. Some people brought more holiday decorations, mushroom containers, and mugs. Our cup runneth over. Kristina presented a brief Centerpiece Making 101 presentation before folks picked out their bases, ornaments and greenery. It was a personality test based on what they chose and how they arranged their works of art. The original plan was to make 120 for Meals on Wheels. That morphed into an additional dozen for the Grantham Food Pantry. Since folks were having so much fun and we had extra makings, another 14 were made and given out to various deserving folks around town including the club’s five civic sponsors Bar Harbor Bank, Shepherd Realty, Coldwell Banker Lifestyles, Lady Grantham Apiary, and Willis Auto.
So what did we do with the leftovers greens? Participants were encouraged to take branches home for their own holiday decorations, and many did. Dana Ramsport at the Transfer Station had us pile up some of the remaining branches accessible for people wanting to take some. Lastly, Lin Hill brought a large bunch of the fresh greens to her friend Cammie in Plainfield who fed them to her sheep Daisy and Clover.
Thank you to the army of people who helped make this happen. Picture those 146 lovingly made centerpieces spreading holiday joy all over the Upper Valley. Happy Holidays!