Tree of Hope: Fundraiser will light tree bulb for each donation of $5 toward books for children

By BETH BUNCH,

At some point along the way, Diane Shepherd of Main Street Books remembers a Christmas tree, known as the Tree of Hope, placed on Hattiesburg’s Main Street that served as a fundraiser for the Helping Hands Mission. The mission was located in the general vicinity of where Gratefull Soul and another building, green in color and located next door, stood. This would have been across the street from where Shepherd’s bookstore is now located.

“It was there near the corner building,” Shepherd said.  “And it had a sign out front requesting a $5 donation for the Mission.”

“Light up our Tree of Hope for the Needy. Each $5 adds another light.”

The tree was the joint project of the Rev. Garland McInnis and the Hattiesburg Jaycees.

Although that program doesn’t exist anymore, Shepherd never forgot it and last year she decided to rekindle it by launching a similar program to help the needy. But this time it directed it to help in an area she was more familiar with – giving children books for Christmas to promote literacy and a love of reading.

She put up a tree and with $5 donations, lit up her first “Tree of Hope,” ultimately donating 500 books to underprivileged children. The books were distributed by Christian Services, a local non-profit organization, during its annual “Birthday Party for Jesus.” Each child received an age-appropriate book.

Shepherd’s goal is to outfit the tree with 300 bulbs. At $5 a bulb, that would bring in $1,500 in donations to purchase books. She said last year’s donations were about $750 and she was able to purchase 500 books. Doubling that donation amount this year would allow her to make even more purchases.

“Hopefully we’ll have enough books to satisfy the needs of Christian Services and be able to provide books for some of the school libraries,” she said.

As a bookstore owner, Shepherd is able to purchase books from Scholastic Books at greatly discounted prices. The only catch is she can’t sell the books, but she can give them away.

The promotion will run from Nov. 9 until Dec. 14, which is the day of Christian Service’s party and is also the weekend for downtown Hattiesburg’s Victorian Candlelighting events. Shepherd hopes that by Dec. 14 all 300 bulbs will be lit on her Tree of Hope.

Saturday’s kickoff will take place from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. during the Hattiesburg Downtown Association’s Holiday Open House.

Shepherd will have the Christmas tree set up in front of her 210 Main Street business, complete with 300 lights on it. Each $5 donation will turn on one of the lights.

“We are thrilled to once again have the opportunity to partner with Christian Services with the distribution of these books at their annual event,” Shepherd said.

Donations can be made online at www.MainStreetBooksandPottery.com or at Main Street Books between Saturday, Nov. 9 and Friday, Dec. 13.

For more information, call (601) 584-6960.