Decorated trees are seen at a previous year's Festival of 'Fostering' Trees at Foster's Clambake in York. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — The time is near to start rockin’ around the Christmas trees again. Foster’s Clambake will be filled with Christmas trees decorated in items like gift cards, Patriots tickets, or children’s toys — similar to the ones that have been raffled off in the past.

The 13th annual Festival of Fostering Trees will be held at Foster’s Clambake and runs from Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

Over 200 Christmas trees will be decorated and on display where participants can place their tickets in a bucket next to the tree they hope to win. All of the proceeds go to benefiting older foster youth in the community.

“To me it’s just pure magic,” event organizer Janalee Moquin said. “We’ve kind of gained a cult following from this community and people outside.”

[4th annual Festival of Trees scheduled in Waterville]

The trees are mostly decorated and donated by individuals but some business also participate in donating a tree.

The festival will begin an hour earlier this year, at 9 a.m., and run until 8 p.m. each day. Moquin said that next year they hope to add an extra day to the program. Also new to this year’s festival is live Christmas trees will be sold to benefit Camp To Belong, which reunites siblings separated through foster care. It’s an idea that Moquin said she received a lot of interest in during last year’s event.

Admission to the Festival of Fostering Trees is free and raffle tickets start at $5 for 25 tickets.

“It’s one of those rare opportunities where everyone is on the same level,” Moquin said. “It’s free to come look at the trees and nearly everyone has five dollars to buy tickets.” Free coffee and cookies will also be available.

Holiday spirit can be seen on the faces of nearly everyone who attends. “Everywhere you look people are just smiling and laughing,” Moquin said. “It makes my heart sing.”

While the four day event is full of happiness and cheer, the proceeds raised by the ticket sales and donations benefit a much more serious issue — helping the older foster youth in the community.

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Moquin feels there is a substantial need for support among the older foster youth. “There’s a huge need for that age group that has really been underserved,” Moquin said.

Moquin founded A Place Called H.O.M.E. (having opportunities means everything) which exists to serve needs of older youth (16-26) who are aging out or have aged out of Maine’s foster care system and find themselves in need of a support system.

Services provided by H.O.M.E. are through volunteer work and include housing, education, transportation, sibling visits, emotional support, personalized “care packages” for those in college, and birthday cards and gift cards.

“We have a herd of volunteers that help the older children that are in the process of aging out of foster care,” Moquin said.

Each year the festival has grown in size and donation amounts. In 2016, $48,000 was raised and in 2017 over $60,000 was raised through the purchase of raffle tickets and extra donations.

[Christmas tree supply is tight as growers are still rebounding from the recession]

“It’s insane because it’s only a four-day event,” Moquin said. “Raffle tickets are just five dollars so it’s overwhelming and heartwarming.”

Much like H.O.M.E. the festival is run on a volunteer basis so all the money raised goes directly to the donation fund.

“We don’t ask for that support,” Moquin said. “So many people and organizations step up, it’s incredible.”

Calls will be placed to all winners on Monday, Dec. 3 between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Winners can pick up their trees on Tuesday, Dec. 4 between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m.

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