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Tradition branches out

Local Girl Scout troop hopes to begin new community ritual during annual Christmas event

In 2004, members of Girl Scout Troop 070 were working to earn the highest award for Girl Scouts ages 11-14 — the Silver Award. To earn the award, the girls had to undertake a project that provided a community service and required approximately 40 hours of commitment. Hence, the group developed the idea of the Festival of Trees.
    As part of the festival, members of the Girl Scout troop garnished one of the 11 trees in the Statesboro Mall court with yellow ribbons to honor local military troops serving overseas.
    In 2005, the yellow-ribboned tree incorporated red ribbons to recognize soldiers of Fort Stewart that had been killed in Iraq.
    Now, in 2006, Statesboro High students Spencer Dutton, Ukachi Ujorji, Kasandra Brown and Southeast Bulloch High’s Cassie Barber decided to take a different approach to decorating the tree. The decorating of this military tree — the Tree of Honor — now would fall on the community.
    “We want to honor veterans, living or deceased, or anyone currently serving in the military,” troop leader Sylvia Dutton explained. “Families are invited to bring ornaments honoring those serving or those who have served in any of our military branches to the Mall for this tree.”
    The ornaments for the tree of honor must have the honorees name on it, but Dutton offered other information that could be included.
    “The first ornament we received included the war the veteran [Howard Fullmore] served and the year he was born and the year he died,” Dutton explained. “But families can include their rank, the military branch in which they served,” their unit’s name or any other information deemed relevant to their military service.
    “We think all veterans are important and in this season of love, joy and peace, we need to remember them,” Dutton said.
    The tree was decorated Friday and dedicated Saturday during the holiday festivities at the Mall, but families can still bring ornaments for the Tree of Honor.
    “Ornaments for the tree can be placed anytime,” Dutton explained. “The Tree of Honor will remain in the Mall until January, and ornaments are welcome until it is taken down.”
    At the end of the holiday season, the ornaments will be boxed up and stored until next year, when the tree will be recreated and ornaments will be accepted again.
    “If this tree fills up, we will get a bigger tree next year,” Dutton said, “or we’ll just add more trees.”
    Statesboro Mall senior property manager Brenda O’Quinn feels the display of trees promotes a community spirit.
    “This tree [the Tree of Honor] will mean a lot to a lot of people,” O’Quinn said. “It will give this community the feeling that this is their mall, their town square.”
    Katherine Kennedy may be reached at (912) 489-9403.

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