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Designed for a good cause

Juanita Ford loves everything about Christmas time.

"Everything," Ford says. "And the decorations are the best part."

Ford is one of dozens of designers who donate lavishly trimmed trees, wreaths and mantel pieces to the Providence Festival of Trees. The holiday celebration is Providence Hospital's annual fundraiser.

This year Ford and a group of her close friends created three seven-foot trees, one four-foot tree and a mantel piece to donate.

"One is fantastic," Ford says. "It's covered with fairies, tassels, roses and ornaments in shades of chartreuse, pink and lavender. Beaded trumpet lilies are suspended around the top like a halo. We call it our "Wow" tree.

Another, a candy tree, is a white tree festooned with ribbon candy, gum balls, candy canes and red bows.

"There's lots of color on that one," Ford says. "It's something for the children."

A third tree is made of iridescent raspberry tinsel, and it's matched with orange, lime, purple and pink ornaments, along with pink lights.

"We call that one "Kaleidoscope," Ford says.

Ford's co-workers include her cousin Jane Perry, close friend Clo Kennedy and daughter-in-law Jackie Ford, all from San Francisco. This year, the group was joined by another close friend, Linda Mariana of Winters, Calif.

The group spends all year planning themes and designs for the Christmas trees they'll enter in the festival. Designers who donate trees are reimbursed by the Providence Foundation, Ford says.

"We get together as early as May and begin putting together ideas," Ford says.

The barn on Ford's property in Central Point is full of artificial Christmas trees and plastic tubs of ornaments.

"There's every color of ornament that you can think of," Ford says. "We purchase trees and decorations from right after Christmas through the rest of the year."

Christmas trees, wreaths and decorations are auctioned at the Providence Festival of Trees' formal, invitational dinner party held at the Medford Armory. This year the monies will go to Charitable Services at Providence. After the auction, the decorations are left in place for public viewing.

Viewing hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 6-7, at the armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.

Ford also created all of the centerpieces for the dinner tables. A total of 46 that she finished by working on five or six a day.

"They're very Christmassy, very snowy," Ford says. "They're done in white and silver, with flocked pine and ornaments. They look just like the festival's brochure. I had a wonderful time making them."

Ford's a 35-year resident of the Rogue Valley. She worked for Southern Oregon Orthopedic and Gastroenterology Consultants before retiring about five years ago. She's been involved with the Festival of Trees since.

"I met many doctors and nurses while I was employed," Ford says. "I liked to decorate trees for them."

Later, Ford's father was in the hospice program at Providence, where she met many of the hospice nurses.

"My co-workers and I love to get together and decorate trees for this event," Ford says. "It's a good way to give back to the community."

Raffle prizes will be available during the public viewing, and this year's prizes include a holiday table service for eight; the Entertainment Tree, with $600 in gifts and $500 in cash; the Great Outdoors Tree, with an inflatable pontoon boat, fire pit and barbecue; and the KRWQ Country Tree, with country music CDS, a stereo syste, DVD player and autographed clothing.

Food and beverage concessions will be available during the event, along with a holiday store selling candy, toys, collectible Santas, gifts and decorations. Santa Claus will be at the festival and for $5 visitors may get their picture taken with him. There is no charge if pictures are taken with your own camera.

Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for seniors 60 and older and children younger than 12. Children 2 and younger get in free.

Designers and volunteers scurry around the Medford Armory Wednesday, Dec. 3, putting the finishing touches on Providence Festival of Trees. - Jim Craven