Festival of Trees & Wreaths is a Bright Light for Disabled Individuals in Southwest Colorado

The annual Festival of Trees & Wreaths, hosted by Community Connections since 2003, has been the organization’s signature event and one that symbolizes the value of community, family and the joy of the holiday season. It wasn’t until 2020, amid the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic that the festival also began to symbolize hope.

Community Connections is a nonprofit that creates inclusive opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in Durango, Cortez and Pagosa Springs. In 2020, the organization found itself in a quandary over what to do with its main fundraiser.

“What we knew we couldn’t do was cancel,” said Tara Kiene, president and CEO of Community Connections. “Alpine Bank stepped up to help keep the hope burning. With their help, we pivoted to an online event with a variety of ways for people to participate. And we expanded from our base at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad into Cortez, where we lit up Main Street with beautiful wreaths. Each tree and wreath was a small glimmer of hope that outwardly represented our communities’ resilience.”

In addition to being a presenting sponsor and one of the longest-running sponsors of the Festival of Trees & Wreaths, Tara recounts her gratitude for Alpine Bank’s help a decade ago. “State budgetary cuts and payment delays forced us to seek a line of credit for payroll and monthly bills, until we could rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of the recession,” she said. “Our hope was rewarded with Alpine Bank’s faith in us. They believed in us enough to extend a $200,000 line of credit in a challenging lending environment, along with the guidance and support we needed for rebirth.”

In 2021, the Festival of Trees & Wreaths will be held the weekend of Dec. 3-5 at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Durango and downtown Cortez, with both in-person and virtual event participation opportunities.

“The hope is still alive, along with our communities’ commitment to supporting the children and adults with disabilities living among us,” Tara said.

Visit communityconnectionsco.org for details on the festival and more ways to support Community Connections’ important work.

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