In 2009 Gaye Wurzbacher was inspired by her community to create a tree lighting ceremony for Tierra Verde. Eleven years later Wurzbacher is the president of the Tree Lighting Ceremony (TLC) of Tierra Verde, a 501c3 non-profit that benefits residents in Lealman and provides an annual ceremony.
This year, the tree lighting is on December 4 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the TLC committee is asking for teen volunteers to help plan and collect toys for the ceremony.
“We also hope that all our neighbors will get to know our first responders that help pull off this event,” Wurzbacher said, “and that they will support our mission statement to support the Lealman/Tierra Verde Fire Department Christmas Outreach program in the Lealman community. Lealman is the neediest community in Pinellas County and together with our first responders we hope to provide a Christmas gift for every child in the Lealman community.”
The TLC annual lighting costs around $20,000 per year, according to organizers: $10,000 to decorate the tree, $7,500 on the entertainment and the rest goes to marketing or the Lealman Toy Drive. The TLC committee is purely volunteer and does not receive any compensation.
“I think COVID made us all realize the importance of Christmas, and the importance of ‘paying it forward’ as our neighbors supported the Lealman Toy Drive,” Wurzbacher said. “We can only hope for this every year! And personally I hope that soon the children can again sit on Santa’s lap and tell him their wishes.”
Interested teens can email Patty Schalter at email@example.com.