Volunteer flips switch on Tree of Love

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 3, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Dozens gathered at the front entrance of Lakeland Hospital in Niles, huddling together to keep warm during a cold December night as they awaited the 2004 lighting ceremony of the Midge Tyler "Tree of Love" Wednesday.
Lakeland Hospital's oldest active volunteer, Mary Wigent, was invited to switch on the tree lights Wednesday. The 97-year-old Wigent began volunteering at the hospital in the 1930s, when it was known as Pawating.
Wigent began volunteering in the Coffee Shop of the old hospital and was a familiar face during the Monday morning shift. Wigent took some time off to raise her two daughters, but resumed volunteering in the 60s, she said.
Wigent was honored to have been asked to light the tree.
Although Wigent has been a regular during the Monday morning shift at the hospital, she has been absent from her duties due to injury.
Wigent broke her wrist in July and has been ordered to take time off to allow it to heal.
Christine Vella, volunteer coordinator for Lakeland Hospital, said every year, one individual is chosen to light the tree as a way to be recognized for their service to the hospital.
Before the lighting, Lucy McCauslin, president of the Lakeland Auxiliary, Pawating, welcomed visitors to ceremony, which began in the newly constructed lobby of the hospital.
The original Tree of Love was relocated from the front of the hospital to near the riverfront during the renovation construction.
Originally, the tree was to be moved back to the front of the hospital, but those plans were cancelled when concerns about the tree's health arose.
Instead, a new tree was planted at the front entrance of hospital and the hospital now has two trees adorned with lights purchased by community members in memory and honor of loved ones.
People can buy a light to illuminate the tree with a donation of $5 or more. Although many people buy the lights in remembrance of a departed loved one, lights can also be purchased in honor of anyone donors would like to honor.
Lights can be bought throughout December and all donations will go towards the purchase of a special stretcher for the hospital trauma unit.
Visitors to the lighting ceremony could see a full list of names of people who were remembered and honored with lights on the "Tree of Love."
The memorial tree was renamed the Midge Tyler "Tree of Love" last year in honor Midge Tyler, a member of the Lakeland Auxiliary, Pawating, who began the "Tree of Love" with fellow auxiliary member Barb Toler, as a fund raiser for the hospital's pediatric division.
She was a volunteer at Lakeland Hospital and after passing away last year, the Lakeland Auxiliary, Pawating decided to name the tree after her
Jessie Womble of Niles, thought the tree was beautiful.
Womble purchased a light in memory of her husband of 65 years, Charles, who passed away Dec. 21, 2003.
McCauslin said the tree embodies the holiday spirit for the members of the hospital.