By Gillian Slade on December 16, 2017.
It looks like the vandals have won.
The LED Christmas lights were stolen from one of the Trees of Lights at Carmel Hospice Thursday night, and the tree itself was vandalized, said Ryan Wiest, site administrator for St. Joseph’s Home.
“It’s sad,” said Wiest holding up the top of the tree, about three feet, which had been snapped off.
Last year the lights on one of the trees, which cost $60 a strand, were stolen and had to be replaced. Damage to the living trees now has Wiest contemplating a completely different approach.
Friday morning the remaining lights were being removed from the other two trees on the Third Street NE hospice property, before any more damage could be done.
For nearly 30 years the annual Trees of Light campaign has been a way for people to make donations in memory of a loved one and in support of palliative care in the community. Trees festooned in Christmas lights have been enjoyed by people driving by and loved ones have been remembered.
After Carmel Hospice was opened in St. Joseph’s Home, very large trees on the property were part of the display. The lights were much higher in the large trees and therefore out of the reach of vandals. However, it meant spending about $2,500 each year on rental equipment that gave the necessary height to place the lights on the trees.
A decision was then made to leave the lights on year-round but a wind storm did significant damage to the lights and even replacing burned out lights meant bringing in special equipment.
The decision was made to plant three new coniferous trees, at a cost of $1,000 each, in the garden at St. Joseph’s. These were small enough to facilitate easy installation of the lights. Even after a few years of growth the lights could still be installed with the use of step ladders, they determined. A motion sensor was installed on the building hoping to deter vandals.
This year the special LED lights were carefully placed and tied to the tree branches securely. In spite of that, the lights on one tree were still stolen Thursday night. Broken bits of light bulbs were lying on the ground Friday morning.
Wiest says they have no intention of stopping the Trees of Light program but will have to find a “vandal proof” way of displaying the lights.
“We are still going to do the Trees of Light but in another way,” said Wiest.
Donations can still be made at Carmel Hospice for the palliative care program. The fund also ensures hospital beds are available for those who desire to remain in their own home for palliative care but would benefit from a hospital style bed. The beds are loaned out to those in need free of charge.
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