After a two-year hiatus, the Fête des Arbres gala dinner returned to Vacaville on Monday.
It might have been in a new location, but all the elements were there: trees decorated and sponsored by local businesses and agencies, live and silent auctions, a gourmet dinner and, of course, the chance to collect. funds for a local homeless shelter. Housing.
The gala dinner has long been the flagship event of the Festival of Trees for much of the tradition’s 31-year history. However, like so many events in 2020, the dinner had to be canceled last year as the festival took on a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The gala returned this year, but not to Vacaville Ice Sports where it was previously held, but rather in the Grand Ballroom at the Sunrise Banquet Hall & Event Center.
Colleen Berumen, executive director of Opportunity House, said the largest cleared space for the biggest gala crowd the Festival of Trees has ever had. It also made the event really feel like a gala, which the rink didn’t.
“It felt colder and we were limited,” she said. “We were at the maximum. Here it allows us to grow, and in fact, in the years to come post-COVID, we may have even more people here. “
The new venue served as the backdrop for what appeared to be a very chic party, with a red carpet at the entrance, participants in costumes and dresses, and the predominance of champagne glasses filled with different drinks. One of the most popular was the Ooh La La Lemon Drop created by Jeet Singh of Clay Oven Bar & Grill, which won the Cocktails for a Cause competition from Opportunity House and thus secured a spot as a signature cocktail. served at the Festival of Trees.
The crowd included some of the most prominent local government officials including MP Jim Frazier, Solano County Assessor-Recorder Marc Tonnesen, Mayor Ron Rowlett, Deputy Mayor Nolan Sullivan, City Manager Aaron Busch, City Attorney Melinda Stewart and Council Members Greg Ritchie, Mike Silva and Roy Stockton.
Berumen said she was very excited about the participation.
“People are happy to come back and do things, especially for the holidays,” she said.
Over the past few years, all of the bidding Christmas trees have been on display in the same venue as the gala. This year, the vast majority of trees are currently on display in Vacaville business windows through Friday, and can be offered for sale through the Festival of Trees website, but six trees were on display at the gala.
Kaiser Permanente Vacaville donated a white tree surrounded by items you might find in a rustic home, Kay Bonifacio from Frank’s Septic Services donated a flocked tree with large red ornaments, California Highway Patrol donated a tree with blue and white ornaments and lots of toys underneath, and Travis Credit Union contributed a “12 Holidates” tree with sachets hanging from the branches each containing a different prize, like a Napa wine tasting, from skydiving at iFLY in Sacramento, an ax throwing at Victory or Valhalla in Dixon or just a romantic dinner at Pietro’s.
A tree paid tribute to auctioneer Joe Gates, and a quilt paid tribute to the life of Nancy Walton, co-founder of the Festival of Trees.
The companies also provided some of the bidding desserts, including a donut tower from Stems Florist, a cheesecake from Tahoe Joe’s and a cookie tower from Opportunity House.
One of the contributions that generated a lot of activity was a rotating photo booth donated by Budget Blinds. Seated in a corner of the ballroom, the participants stepped on a platform on which a smartphone was mounted on a pole. The pole would rotate and capture panoramic images of the subjects in the center, and the subjects would have the option of sending the photos to their own phones.
The festivities continued with a dinner provided by Chef to Go Catering consisting of tri-tip, grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, a mix of carrots and green beans, salad and butter rolls.
Berumen highlighted the theme of the evening, “We Can Only Imagine,” which she said encapsulates the work of Opportunity House and its parent organization, Vacaville Social Services Organization.
“Over the past four years, we have used our imaginations, hearts and collaborations to work to make an impact on our homeless or homeless community,” she said.
Some of the achievements of Opportunity House over the past year cited by Berumen include the start of accepting single fathers as residents, setting up a program for young people and adolescents to share their problems with others. adult mentors, operating a heated hideaway at the Georgie Duke Sports Center in the winter. months and organizing fundraisers such as cocktails for a cause, cookies for a cause and a celebrity golf tournament.
“It takes a lot more than imagination to accomplish what we have done,” said Berumen. “We created a program at Opportunity House that gives a helping hand to individuals and families, not a handout. “
The only thing Berumen failed to imagine is the support of the community, as Opportunity House has received a lot.
“At all times, we are supported by you, whether you are a monthly donor, a food donor, a volunteer, a fundraiser, a second hand or a donor, a coat driver… you are making a huge difference. She said.
Berumen then introduced Brandon Sanborn as this year’s Speaker of Hope, a resident of Opportunity House who overcame initial hardships after being enrolled at the shelter and being successful. Sanborn was only the second single dad in the program, and he spoke about his experiences being on probation and raising his two children while homeless.
“Being homeless is more than having a place to stay,” he said. “It’s being in a situation that affects physical and mental stability. It’s a full time job figuring out where you’ll feel safe long enough to figure out what to do next.
Sanborn first became homeless in December 2018, and he said it took him less than a month before exhausting all of his options to provide for his children. He spent his first Christmas that year in a hotel and on New Years with his sister. His probation officer recommended that he stay at Opportunity House.
“I had never heard of this place before, but I was ready to give it a shot, even if it was only for a week,” he said. “A week without having to worry about myself and my children.”
Sanborn spent his last 20 dollars on Little Caesars pizza and gasoline to get from Vallejo to Opportunity House for his face-to-face meeting. While in the lobby, his son said he was hungry and the family were offered a lunch bag.
“It was the first moment in what seemed like an eternity that I could step back and breathe,” he said.
Sanborn did very well at Opportunity House, where he used his cooking experience to help prepare food in the kitchen, earned his GED, went through a positive parenting program, and got a full-time construction job. .
“Today, I believe the past does not define me,” he said. “I believe that nothing is too small or too difficult to achieve, I believe that I can make a difference and most importantly, I believe in myself.”
Sanborn expressed his gratitude for Opportunity House.
“The Opportunity House helps kick-start a momentum for success that I still have today,” he said.
The remaining bidding trees will be on display in company windows until Friday. One way to see them is to take part in the Winter WonderWalk in downtown Vacaville, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, visit Downtownvacaville.com/events/winter-wonderwalk/.
The Festival of Trees will also be offering its Holiday Bake Shoppe until December 31, with the proceeds going to Opportunity House. For more information and to place orders, visit Direct.chownow.com/order/25844/locations/38192.