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New tree, same Love Lights
Program benefits hospice; lighting set for Dec. 7
A new Love Lights tree is installed Tuesday near the North Patient Tower at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the hospital’s Love Lights program. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Love Light
To donate: Call the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Auxiliary at 770-219-1830 or mail donations to The Medical Center Auxiliary, 743 Spring St., Gainesville, GA 30501. Checks should be made to Northeast Georgia Medical Center Auxiliary and donations should include who is to be honored as well as a full address for the acknowledgement card.
Tree lighting: 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Auxiliary Love Light Garden located at the hospital’s north entrance.

STORY: Service helps hospice patients, family members cope

When Northeast Georgia Medical Center flips the switch Dec. 7 on the Love Light tree, it will mark the 30th year of the fundraising program that has raised $1.6 million for hospice.

The program was started by the Medical Center Auxiliary, and 100 percent of donations go to Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said Lynne Allen, the hospital’s director of volunteer services. Last year, the program raised $112,000.

"The Love Light program here was one of the first in Georgia," she said. "It’s a very meaningful way to honor or remember loved ones or friends during the holiday season and throughout the year. ... Those funds go directly to help provide skilled medical care within the home of terminally ill patients."

In addition to providing in-home care for patients, the hospice program offers grief counseling for family members.

"Often it’s the final wish of the patient to be able to remain within their home within the final weeks or months of life, and there are many times that without these funds, it would not be possible for patients to remain within their homes," she said.

Love Light donations often include a note of gratitude from a family member who was helped by hospice, Allen said.

The minimum Love Light donation is $10 for a light. Donations of $100 buy a star and donations of $500 and more, an angel. Volunteers also will send a gift acknowledgement card to a person designated by the donor. The tax-deductible donations are accepted throughout the year and celebrated with next month’s Love Light tree ceremony.

"We’re very grateful to the community for the support that’s been shown through the year," Allen said. "Love Light could not have had the success that it has without thousands in our community supporting it."

Michelle Weidner and husband Dr. Geoff Weidner are serving as co-chairs of the Love Light program this year. Michelle Weidner said she and her husband are honored that they continue to be asked to serve in those positions.

"For both of us, our role is really small," she said. "It’s the volunteers and the donors who are responsible for making Love Light the success that it is."

Weidner also credited the community, which continues to make Love Light donations despite the tough economy.

"Every dollar does make a difference," she said. "And we’re very appreciative to everyone who takes the time to volunteer and donate and talk about the (hospice) program to their friends and family."

The public is invited to the lighting of the Love Light tree, set for 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Auxiliary Love Light Garden.

Yet this year’s angels, stars and lights won’t be adorning the permanent tree, which the hospital planted last year. Allen said that tree was uprooted in a heavy storm and died despite being replanted. A cut tree was installed Tuesday in the garden and a new permanent tree will be planted in January, Allen said.