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Loved ones remembered through hospital tree

December 11, 2000

Loved ones remembered through hospital tree



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Memorial treeCHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - About 30 people huddled in a semi-circle around the Christmas tree outside Chambersburg Hospital Sunday evening, waiting for the 20-foot tree come alive with white lights.

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The temperature had dropped below freezing and a few snow flakes had fallen throughout the day, but the group didn't want to miss the tree-lighting ceremony marking the 12th annual Festival of Lights.

The Chambersburg Area Hospital Auxiliary sponsors the event, which allows members of the community to honor or remember loved ones by placing a light on the tree, said Nancy Cassel, chairman of the Publicity Committee who brought the idea to the local auxiliary.

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"I know when I look up at the tree I pick out my own lights for my mom, dad and brother," Cassel said. "Everyone has their own thoughts, and it's a nice thing to do at the holidays."

The tree lighting is also fundraiser for the auxiliary. Last year, 355 families contributed $6,300, Cassel said. The average donation was $10 a light.

"At $10 a light, that's a lot of memories," she said.

So far, the auxiliary has collected $6,235 this year, and will accept donations through the end of the month.

Cassel said she would like to reach the goal of $7,000, which will go toward the auxiliary's Million Dollar pledge. It will make a dent in the $65,000 left to go, she said.

Cassel said she heard about the project at a meeting of women from different hospital auxiliaries more than a decade ago.

"It's a lovely idea this time of year," she said.

This year the auxiliary expanded the tree lighting to include a few other trees and bushes.

"We have so many people participating we wanted to expand the number of lights," Cassel said.

The tree lighting followed a 15-minute ceremony that included Christmas carols and comments from auxiliary members, hospital staff and two pastors.

"I thank the auxiliary for slowing us down a little to remember our loved ones," said John Massimilla, vice president for administration at the hospital.

The Rev. Jeffery L. Roth, pastor at St. John's United Church of Christ, reminded those in attendance that their loved ones live on.

"Memory is a blessing which God has given us. By remembering they will love on in our hearts," Roth said.

After a few quick verses of "Joy to the World," "Away in a Manger," "The First Noel" and "Silent Night," the group moved indoors for to warm up an enjoy the music of St. John's Brass Ensemble.

Lucille Stence said she had been participating in the ceremony since it began, remembering her parents and an aunt and uncle.

"It was a moving ceremony. It's very nice they do this," Stence said.

All of the names of those remembered are inscribed in a book on display in the hospital lobby.

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