Big Brothers Big Sisters Festival of Trees goes online

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County’s biggest fundraiser is online this week.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County’s annual Festival of Trees will follow the digital trend and present a virtual program for its silent and live auctions this week.

The silent auction began on Dec. 1 and continues until noon on Dec. 7. The live auction will be broadcast online 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4.

Pivoting to a virtual program was not easy, said Executive Director Tiffany Scribner.

“It’s been a pretty massive undertaking,” Scribner said, adding that the logistics of finding an auctioneer and production company and photographing every auction item required a high level of effort.

Auction items can be viewed on the 2020 Festival of Trees website, and people can bid on decorated trees and centerpieces online and preview live-auction-only items.

There are 12 trees up for auction, each decorated with a theme and paired with items like a trip to a local vineyard or a ticket to a local nursery, Scribner said.

There is a different make-up of auction items this year than in years prior because of the pandemic’s affect on local businesses, and some items like travel packages aren’t up for grabs. Also, there is no 10-foot tall tree since it’s usually purchased by a business, Scribner explained.

However, there is an emphasis on local experiences, and Scribner said the organization was thankful for these donations this year. Notable live-auction-only items include a glassblowing experience for two at Calcifer Glass, a year of facials from Melissa York Studio and a seafood feast from Penn Cove Shellfish.

The group’s fundraising goal this year is $165,000, which represents more than half of its budget to support its mission to connect young people with adult mentors.

Like the auction, Big Brothers Big Sisters has also transitioned to more digital interactions in its day-to-day interactions.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a major decrease in volunteerism this year,” Scribner said.

The need is particularly great for male mentors, which is common nationwide for the organization, she said. Pairs, called matches, have still been able to connect this year and have done outdoor visits and virtual meetings as public health guidance has evolved.

“We’ve served about 65 matches this year. That’s down from 100-140,” she said, adding that there were about 40 kids on the wait list for a mentor.

“What we have seen this year is that youth everywhere are experiencing disconnection, isolation, depression, anxiety. I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out why that’s happening,” Scribner said.

“But the kids who are in our program who have a mentor are reporting back that their mentor has been a source of joy and hope and consistency in these kids’ lives that they desperately need right now.”

To see this year’s virtual auction and register for the event, and to find more information about becoming a mentor, visit https://bbbsislandcounty.org/

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