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Circle of lights

December 06, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Many people made donations as part of Washington County Hospital Auxiliary's Tree of Lights drive, which celebrated its 20th year Sunday.

One Williamsport woman's donation won't likely be seen in a financial ledger but the donation - a towering blue spruce tree - can be viewed by anyone passing through the hospital's main entrance.

The auxiliary welcomed more than 100 people to the hospital Sunday evening to celebrate the fund-raising event, which capped this year's Festival of Trees.

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People who donated amounts ranging from $10 to $500 had a light put on the tree outside Washington County Hospital in memory of a deceased loved one, hospital spokeswoman Maureen Theriault said.

"It's an opportunity for the community to contribute to the auxiliary and honor an individual or group they want to remember at the end of the year," Theriault said.

Many donors helped this year's total for Tree of Lights 2004 reach about $11,000 through Sunday, with nearly four weeks left in the drive, said drive chairwoman Jean Goodnight.

Goodnight said the group hopes to raise about $4,000 more by the end of the campaign, which officially began in early November and ends Dec. 31. The money, like in past years, will go toward equipment for the hospital, Goodnight said.

She said this year that includes artificial lighting equipment for the soon-to-be-opened special care Level II nursery.

James P. Hamill, Washington County Health System president and CEO, said the nursery, which will include as many as six beds, is scheduled to open in 2005. He said the nursery would be staffed with nurses and physicians who specialize in caring for premature babies.

Hamill said the unit is of great importance to families during what is an emotional time because, without it, prematurely born children will continue to be sent to Baltimore for care, putting additional strain on local residents.

"They either get separated or the mothers have to go to Baltimore," Hamill said. "It's probably the most important time for family bonding. That's a time a young mother needs support."

Among dozens of donators on hand for a reception Sunday at the hospital was Janet Lefferts of Hagerstown. Lefferts said her donation to Tree of Lights this year, in honor of her grandson Bret Crowell, who was killed in a car crash, was the first she has made.

"We were here for X-rays, and I saw a tree and lights," Lefferts said. "I'd never seen it before and thought it was all a very nice thing."

Williamsport resident LaRue Stenger's donation was a little different and the largest, in size, the hospital received. Stenger donated the enormous blue spruce.

Stenger said her husband, Myron "Lindy" Stenger, worked hard to maintain the tree for years at their home and decided that he wanted to donate it before he died in March.

"He spent about a month in this hospital, and I stayed with him," Stenger said. "I thought it was a way I could pay them back for everything, with something everyone can enjoy."

Goodnight said anyone who wants more information on making a donation for Tree of Lights may call 301-790-8143 or go to Washington County Hospital's main lobby before Dec. 31.

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