Crystal Angels raffle Christmas trees and wreaths for Project Santa Claus |

Crystal Angels raffle Christmas trees and wreaths for Project Santa Claus

by Sarah Hauck
The 'Happy Feet' tree is one of many that was part of the Crystal Angel's holiday gala raffle.
Sarah Hauck |

What started as a small group of ladies meeting for lunch once a month, has blossomed into almost 200 ladies and a common cause; helping children.

Crystal Angels is hosting their sixth holiday gala 11 a.m. today.

The Angels will take over the Valley Ballroom of the Carson Valley in with 29-themed Christmas trees and 11 wreaths all up for raffle.

“It really brings the spirit of Christmas to heart,” member Mary Francis Bischofberger said.

Bischofberger and her mother, Helen Jamme, each created trees for the gala.

Jamme’s “Bling, Baubles and Beads” tree has more than 1,200 hand-placed rhinestones on everything from the tree’s branches and ornaments to the skirt around the base.

The tree will be one of many that will collect tickets purchased by gala attendees.

All of the money raised from raffle ticket sales will be used to sponsor more than 60 children from Project Santa Claus.

“We raised over $8,000 last year and were able to clothe and give toys to 61 children,” Jamme said. “The children that we give to truly are in need.”

Bischofberger sees the project full circle when she volunteers her time at the fairgrounds to help with the sorting and wrapping of Project Santa Claus gifts.

“The look on the kids’ face makes it worth it,” Bischofberger said. “It makes it really Christmas.”

The mother and daughter are especially proud and excited about a patriotic-themed tree.

The raffle ticket price for the patriotic tree is different from all of the others, and all of the proceeds for the tree go directly to the Veterans Guest House in Reno.

“We’re really, really proud of our family’s 125 years of veteran service,” Jamme said. “We’re really tickled about the patriotic tree.”

The group has also decided to match the amount of money raised by the tree for a donation to the organization.

Six members of the group who have been nicknamed The Hub take ideas from other members as well as their own and execute them through the trees.

Member Vivan Watson opens her four-car garage to The Hub to decorate the trees.

“We all help each other,” Watson said. “We ask ‘does this look ok here, or here?’ We have fun.’’

Watson also worked on the “Crystal Chandelier” tree that is part of the grand prize raffle along with an entire crystal-decorated table setting.

The Hub has been working since the end of August to decorate the wreaths and trees.

Most of the cost for decorations come out of the member’s pockets, but donations have happened.

Bonnie Foster’s Hallmark tree has more than $500 worth of donated Hallmark ornaments attached.

“Before I moved here I was a stager in California,” Foster said. “Two years ago I was invited to the White House to help them decorate and I have brought some of that expertise to this.”

Peggy Casentini, who was the creative organizer for the wreaths, also created two other trees, “The Venetian” with things from her trip to Italy and the “Around the World in 80 Days” tree that has ornaments and postcards from members’ travels.

Next week the Crystal Angels will take over the Target with the proceeds from the gala to fulfill, hopefully more than 65 children’s wish lists.

“The idea behind the group was the children,” founder and president Laurie Hennessy said. “It started as just five people meeting for lunch. It grew and grew every month and we decided we needed a purpose.”

In the early years of the group, Crystal Angels supported a single family during the holiday season.

“The first year we bought everything from the tree to their dinner to every present in between,” Hennessy said. “It just gives us so much joy to no that we get to enjoy this (the gala) and it sets off the Christmas holiday and it’s for the children. That is the whole purpose; the children.”

Crystal Angels hopes to raise $12,000 this year to complete 65 or more children’s wish lists as well as donating to the Boys and Girls Club and the Veterans House Guest in Reno.