ALTON — The Salvation Army-Alton Corps will host the inaugural Tree of Lights-Red Kettle Campaign “light up” ceremony at 6 p.m. tonight at the Alton Corps Headquarters; 525 Alby St.
“This marks the first time in over 30 years that we have had a Tree of Lights here at the Alton Corps Headquarters, but 2015 Kettle Coordinator Greg Gelzinnis said it was a must,” Alton Corps Lt. Bryan Ellison said. “I believe that it will truly add a focal point to this year’s campaign and allow the community to see on almost a nightly basis just how we are doing, since it will be the ‘thermometer’ for kettle gifts to date.”
“I remembered as a child growing up in the community (long before my current position) that there was a big tree at the HQ building that had lights on it … and I thought that I remembered that those lights corresponded to the Kettle Campaign,” Gelzinnis said.
So Gelzinnis took that memory to heart and with the help of Joel Anderson and the Anderson Family Christmas Tree Lot, a towering 21-foot pine was donated and brought to the Alton Corps Headquarters Nov. 14 to take its place in Corps’ history. “When Greg called, we were honored to be asked to provide the official Tree of Lights tree; I just hoped that we had one big enough,” Anderson said. “As it was raised in place and the top reached (and a little beyond) the top of the office, I felt we had a winner.”
“The tree-lighting ceremony is going to coincide with the Abundant Life Thanksgiving Dinner being provided to the community from 5-7 p.m.,” Gelzinnis said. “When I ran the idea past Sue and the Abundant Life Team, they were so excited and anxious to participate in this little piece of Salvation Army History.
“It will be a perfect blending of our community … those that the Army serves, and those who help us lend a hand … all wrapped in the bow of what the Christmas season is all about … helping our fellow man.”
The entire community is encouraged and invited to attend the 6 p.m. ceremony.
In addition to getting a “sneak peek” at the official Tree of Lights tree, the ceremony also will feature remarks by Alton Mayor Brant Walker, 2015 Tree of Lights’ Chair Family the Botterbushes, Lts. Bryan and Teri Ellison — and Gelzinnis promises a couple of special surprises before the evening ends. Hot chocolate and cookies will finish off the evening in grand style.
A “yarn bomb” installation of mittens, gloves and scarves will be unveiled at the Tree Lighting Ceremony for those in need this winter season, and the Alton Middle School Cast of Hairspray will be joining the festivities.