The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

November 15, 2013

Book tree to take center stage

The Commercial-News

DANVILLE — To promote literacy and reading, the giant stuffed animal tree is being replaced with a giant book tree at this year’s Festival of Trees.

“Wishes Come True” is the theme for the 2013 Festival of Trees, which starts Saturday. The annual event is presented by Presence United Samaritans Medical Center’s Foundation.

Book Tree chairperson Julie Puzey said the idea for this year’s book tree came from talking with her husband, Mark, and Angie Lazzell, event coordinator for the festival. Mark found a picture of a book tree from another community’s event to model a tree after. The tree was the same basic design for the Festival of Trees usual stuffed animal tree. The stuffed animals were replaced with books.

“We were just looking for something unique, something different,” Mark said. “It shifts the focus a little to promote literacy.”

The 22-foot-tall book tree was built in pieces with the help of Lowe’s staff and Mark Puzey. Another volunteer, Steve Strader, painted it.

“It’s constructed. It’s quite monstrous,” said Lowe’s manager Joel Highfill, who was born and raised in Potomac. He said the tree is about 12 feet in diameter and has shelves on it for books of different heights.

Highfill said Lowe’s is all about helping the community.

“We’re here for more than just to sell things as a retailer,” he said. “We are members of the community.”

He said Lowe’s supports various community projects, such as through the Boys and Girls Club, Georgetown Fair and Relay for Life.

Lowe’s also will have 400-500 wooden kits for children at the Festival of Trees on Children’s Day on Saturday.

“We’ll have three to five different types of kits,” Highfill said.

“It’s all free to the community,” he said about the kits.

Julie Puzey said the vision for the book tree was to reach out to schools and others for book donations.

“We’ve had a lot of success with schools throughout the county who have volunteered to donate books,” she said.

Julie said schools have conducted book drives, and the Danville Public Library also has helped out.

The library will have story hour around the tree from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Visitors again will be asked to guess the number of books on the tree, as they did with the stuffed animals in years past to win a prize.

Julie said after sorting through all the donations, they received more than enough books for the tree.

“The community support has been tremendous,” she said.

After the festival, the books will go back to some training libraries the Danville Public Library works with, the juvenile detention center and other charities and organizations throughout the county that promote and encourage literacy, Julie said.

The Puzeys, with two children of their own and another on the way, love going to the festival as a family, besides being volunteers.

Julie said just seeing children’s expressions of wonderment and amazement at the lights and other parts of the festival makes it all worthwhile.