The spirit of volunteerism can be infectious.
When asked last year if they could help decorate the community Christmas tree for Christmas in the Park, Jill Wilbur, who works in accounts payable at VIP Office Furniture and Supply, and Jenny Cole, co-owner of Uncommon Grounds, quickly enlisted the help of friends and loyal Uncommon Grounds customers.
“(Hinesville Public Works Department) OMI purchased the tree and all the tree decorations and put one of their employees, Kenna Graham, in charge of the (community) tree display,” Wilbur said. “Kenna is a long-time customer at Uncommon Grounds. He came to Jenny for ideas for the Christmas tree, and Jenny invited me to be a creative brain for the project. Jenny and her family are great at supporting the community and encouraging community involvement. I jumped at the chance, proud to put my name on anything that would make people happy during the holidays.”
Wilbur said she is a former Uncommon Grounds employee and close friend of the family. Cole said Wilbur was the only employee who stayed on when she and her husband bought the coffee shop in 2006. As the two discussed their decorative collaborations after the event, Cole said Wilbur was the best thing that came with the coffee and sandwich shop.
The two ladies and several Uncommon Grounds customers met several times to discuss this year’s tree decorations. Wilbur said OMI again set them up with the tree, decorations, guide wires and what she called an indestructible tree stand. This year’s tree included more than 3,000 lights and 100 ornaments, she said.
She said while meeting with Graham about this year’s decorations, he asked what else they needed. She told him “more of everything.” Cole noted, however, they were restricted by the number of lighting strands they could link together. Because this year’s tree is so tall, Wilbur said they got some much-needed help from the Hinesville Fire Department, which provided a ladder that enabled them to install what she called “tree toppers,” small branches that shoot skyward at an angle, encircling the tree top.
“We both have a creative side to us,” Cole said. “When you do it with someone else, you play off each other. We work together as a team. To make up for time spent planning and working on the tree, I put in longer hours here at the shop. And I did a lot of it on weekends.”
Wilbur said she also attended planning meetings with Cole and Graham whenever she could — lunchtime, breaks and weekends. They and several other volunteers, including customer Simone Cochran, did the bulk of the work on this year’s tree the day before the Dec. 1 event. She said they put in a full day “perfecting” the tree.
Cole said they worked from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., which meant working on the tree after dark. They had to turn on the tree to have enough light to see where to hang the last few ornaments, she said.
Both ladies said they were pleased with the decorations and lighting on this year’s tree and gratified by the reaction of those attending the tree-lighting. It was worth every hour they volunteered, they said.