By CRISTINA JANNEY
Two Hays woman have been busy elves since June creating fantastic Christmas decor to be sold during the annual Arc Festival of Trees fundraiser.
The multi-purpose room at the Arc in Hays is filled with decorated Christmas trees, porchscapes, table-top decor, signs and wreaths.
An online auction will run Friday to Nov. 17 and benefit the final stage of Hays' ARC Park — an accessible ball diamond. It will also be in Seven Hills Park.
The ball field is estimated to cost $600,000 to $700,0000. The project has about $40,000 raised for this phase of the project.
Donna McKenzie and Joan Heier were the creative talent behind most of the holiday decor.
Heier volunteered with the project last year. McKenzie has never volunteered with the Arc before, but saw all the wonderful creations that were produced last year and offered her time this year.
Heier said when she started with the project, she was a little bit overwhelmed because the Arc had so much to work with. Almost all the items that are auctioned during the Festival of Trees are made from items that are donated to the Arc Thrift Store. The store sets back items year-round for the project.
"You can see a piece, and it may have come from five different boxes of collection or it may have come at different times," McKenzie said. "I started a tree and just now found some that I want to add to the tree. As things come in, it just keeps growing and growing."
Heier said inspiration was everywhere.
"A lot of it was whatever you see. 'I think I can work with this. I think I can make this. I have enough stuff to put this together,' " she said.
A leg lamp came into the Arc from "A Christmas Story," so a tree based on the movie had to be made, McKenzie said. The lamp, a sign and one ornament were donated. McKenzie made the rest of the decorations for the tree by hand out of donated items.
The ladies have been very prolific in their work. Although a couple of others pitched in, the women made most of the decor themselves.
The Arc is still counting items and loading photos into the online auction portal. However, Kathy McAdoo, Arc executive director, estimated the project has more than 200 items this year — 30 to 50 more items than last year.
The items range from large fully-decorated Christmas trees or a decorated wheel barrow to small table-top rustic cabin. There's something for every space and budget, McAdoo said.
The women said they enjoyed working together, which included many eight-hour days during the last five months. Sometimes they just needed a second set of eyes on a project or four hands — and they had to learn to laugh at themselves, Heier said.
"It was so much fun, because every day you learned something new about what you were working with, and we helped each others," Heier said.
McKenzie took a week off from the project when her first grandson was born, but she said she missed her friend and the work.
"Of course, I wanted to be home with my grandson, but I knew stuff was going on down here without me," she said as she and Heier both broke into laughter.
McKenzie, who used to work in a flower shop, said she thought her and Heier's styles were complimentary. McKenzie's designs are more natural and rustic, such as an old decorated wooden ladder or wooden chair. Heier's designs are more glamorous with lots of silver and gold, and glitter.
It seems no matter what the two ladies were designing, they always came home covered in glitter, McKenzie joked. Her husband questioned where it was all coming from.
McKenzie said one of her favorite projects is a Santa peaking through an antique window. She found a Santa image that was on a stretched canvas. She white washed the window and added calligraphy to the top pane of the window.
The project also has a Hot Wheels tree that includes a track running around the tree.
The women had fun making the projects, but they haven't lost sight of the goal to raise money for the ARC Park. They considered having T-shirts made that said "Bid high, bid often."
"It's means a lot to me that I can contribute to that," McKenzie said of the ARC Park. "I was always looking for a way to get involved down here. This has been where I can use my talents, and it can really grow and go into the ARC Park."
Before she started volunteering for the Arc, Heier said she didn't realize the needs of the people the Arc serves and how many people needed help.
"To me it's very rewarding, and I love what I've been able to do," she said. "I've made all these friends. It's been good all the way around."
Both women said they were very thankful for the generous donations to the Arc Thrift Store. Without them, the Festival of Trees would not be possible. Some of the items that were donated still had tags on them or where new in their boxes.
Although all of the items up for auction will be available to view online, people also can view the items in person at the Arc office, 600 Main. The items can be viewed during Arc Thrift Store hours 9 a.m. 4 p.m. during the auction. The thrift store is closed on Sundays.