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Tree lighting celebrates donations to hospice
Ami Young sings “Oh Holy Night” Monday evening as the Love Light Tree lights are turned on at the conclusion of the lighting ceremony at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. - photo by Tom Reed

Hundreds of lights sparkled on the Love Light Tree as local residents huddled together against the bitter cold.

For a 31st year, the lights reflected how many donors came out in support of the Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, which provides in-home nursing care to terminally ill patients.

"We’ve been able to help children to attend bereavement camps when they lose loved ones, put grieving groups in schools and help patients with medicine, heating and utility bills," said Frank Lake, 2010 Love Light co-chairman with his wife, Jane. "We provide music and massage therapy, and I’ve seen firsthand over the decades the direct help in the quality of life for our patients and their families."

Since 1995, the Love Light tradition has pulled in $1.3 million for the hospice. This year, the tree represents $53,000 donated so far. Contributors can continue to give throughout the year, and 100 percent of Love Light dollars benefit the hospice.

For a $10 to $500 donation, individuals can purchase a light, star or angel that adorns the Love Light Tree, which is displayed in the Auxiliary Love Light Garden near the North Patient Tower of the hospital. Though a permanent evergreen sits in the garden, hospice officials decided to use a tree next to it to hold the lights. Both will sit in the garden throughout the holiday season.

"This garden is here for patients and families to enjoy, and though our tree is not stable enough to decorate this year, it holds a meaningful tradition and will become even more meaningful next year," Jane Lake said. "It represents the thousands of contributions we’ve received so far in memory of loved ones. It shows the true meaning of the holiday season."

Christmas cheer filled the air as the Lakes lit the tree and chorus groups from Lakeview Academy, Sardis Enrichment School, Johnson High School and West Hall High School sang traditional holiday tunes.

Deborah Boling, a clinical harpist who volunteers at the hospice, performed at the entrance of the North Patient Tower prior to the lighting. More than 350 ornaments from Hall County students in kindergarten through third grade will decorate the entrance of the North Patient Tower for the rest of the year.

"We’re so appreciative of the generous support," said Carol Burrell, interim CEO for Northeast Georgia Health System. "You all are brave for being here on this cold night, and it means so much each year."

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