It’s almost that magical time of year again when one can wander amongst a forest of holiday-lighted and themed trees artfully juxtaposed with seasonal décor of almost every type. Yes, it’s almost time for the annual Festival of Trees benefiting Ellis County Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat fundraising chair Susie Keane and board member Teresa McNeil recently spoke with KBEC 1390AM/99.1FM host Jim Phillips for the station’s Hour of Hope (broadcast at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2). They shared how this is the seventh year for the nonprofit organization’s major annual fundraiser, which takes the format of a silent auction offering hundreds of items.

“It’s not just holiday items,” Keane said. “The silent auction also features tables full of gift certificates.”

For the show’s taping, the two brought along several items already donated for the auction, with one a unique wall décor piece that incorporates an old rake head and personally handcrafted by Keane. Another was a holiday wreath with a beach theme while a third could serve as either a wall decoration or a signature décor piece on a front porch.

“We have items that range from fancy to the simplistic,” Keane said. “We don’t know what all will be there until it comes in the door.”

The festival offers everything from fully decorated trees to table décor to smaller items and stocking stuffers showcased in “Santa’s Store,” where local artist Elizabeth Bravo will be on hand to personalize ornaments.

Refreshments including wassail and coffee will be available to help put people in the shopping mood while browsing the selections, while several local pianists will also add to the atmosphere with their holiday selections.

Keane and McNiel encourage families to attend, not only for the holiday feelings the event evokes but also because this year features an expanded children’s area for children to enjoy while their parents place their bids.

“In other words, it’s all of your Christmas shopping under one roof,” Phillips said of the Festival of Trees.

Indeed, Keane said, adding, “You’re getting something beautiful and you’re making someone else’s life beautiful.”

What Habitat does

Since its charter in 2001, Ellis County Habitat for Humanity has brought about the construction of more than a dozen homes, with three in Ennis, one in Midlothian and the rest in Waxahachie.

Almost all have been three-bedroom, two-bath residences of about 1,200 square feet, with recipients typically taking on about a $600/month mortgage and no-interest loan.

Those interested go through an application process and, if selected for the program, they are required to put in sweat-equity hours and take financial management classes.

“It gives a person a hand-up,” McNiel said. “It’s not a hand-out. It’s the American dream and it’s fun to see that pride of ownership take hold.”

Keane added, “You want children to have a good place to live and to have a happy life. They shouldn’t have to guess about their home and if it’s safe. To me, this is for the children so they can see the future.”

During the Hour of Hope taping, both Keane and McNiel urged families interested in applying for a Habitat of Humanity home to do so.

They also noted that the nonprofit is currently building on its last donated lot and is seeking additional lot donations to help keep the cost down for recipients. Anyone who may be able to help with lot donations is encouraged to reach out to any board member or contact them through the organization’s website.

The board also is seeking someone who can take over the role of general contractor (a paid position) for the homes.

How to help

Community members are encouraged to participate in the Festival of Trees by decorating a tree, wreath or other Christmas décor item, volunteering at the event, attending the Festival of Trees or purchasing any of the auctioned items.

Drop off donations and contributions to the Festival of Trees from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 and from 8 a.m.-noon Friday, Nov. 22, at Waxahachie Bible Church, 621 N. Grand Ave. For forms and more information on making a donation for the event, visit

The festival itself and silent auction will run from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22 and from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. Successful bidders must pick up their items between 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.

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