Five years ago Berlin resident Lisa Toussaint attended the Christmas Tree Lighting in her husband's hometown of Guilford and was inspired by the sense of community surrounding by the event.
"I came home and called my sister and three other very close friends and we sat around my kitchen table trying to figure out how we could do something like that in Berlin," said Toussaint. "We wanted to get more involved in our community and show our kids how to serve their community as well. We organized our first tree lighting four years ago and out of that tree lighting Raising Berlin was born."
The Fourth Annual Tree lighting will be lit by Santa Claus tomorrow around 5 p.m. but the annual event will run from 4 to 6 p.m. at Veterans Park. The tree lighting, just like Raising Berlin's impact in town, has grown by leaps and bounds.
This year there will be musical entertainment from McGee Middle School's Sound Express and the Songbirds, The Mayor will address the crowd and Santa will arrive just before 5 p.m. While these things are going on there will be exhibitions by snowboarders presented by The Cutting Edge and ice sculpture carving. There will also be the Kiwanis trailer brought over from where it usually sells Christmas trees and wreaths to hand out hot chocolate and coffee. The Lions Club has decorated its Gazebo in Veterans Park and the Kensington Fire Department has decorated the tree. Refreshments will be served and yummy breads will be sold. There will also be other surprises for those who attend.
At its peak Raising Berlin had 75 members. It has hosted many events in town since that first tree lighting. The uniqueness of this group is that all of the proceeds of its events stay right in Berlin. Proceeds from the tree lighting will go to the Berlin Food Pantry and Stocking Stuffers to provide gifts for those in Berlin not fortunate enough to get Christmas gifts.
"From that first tree lighting we escalated to other events," said Toussaint, who is in her final year as President of Raising Berlin. "We wanted to bring families and children together to get a sense of community. We think it’s important to give back to the community. Any time we put on an event, we buy everything we can from town businesses and our by-laws tell us to keep all money raised in town.
"We filled a really nice void in town. It's nice to see people at the ball fields and at brownies and at school events but this organization gives families a sense of community service and I'm really proud of where we are today."
Toussaint is looking forward to this tree lighting, which she is hoping will be the biggest, and best one yet.
"I'm very excited about the ice sculpture," she said. "I've never seen it done but they will make these things out of a block of ice with a chain saw. They have agreed to leave it there throughout the season, as long as it gets cold and stays cold.
"I can't take all the credit for this. There is so much work done behind the scenes by a lot of great people. We are a grassroots group with a great heart. The women in the organization donate so much time and effort, they are quite exceptional."