December 6, 2017

Forty-one Christmas trees were raffled off at the 'Festival of Trees.' The money raised benefits local scholarships.

Contributed Forty-one Christmas trees were raffled off at the 'Festival of Trees.' The money raised benefits local scholarships.

MARATHON — This city appears ready to celebrate the holidays. 

Copious holiday lights decorate Marathon Community Park after the city’s annual celebration held Nov. 26, and seasonal decorations hang from poles along the Overseas Highway. 

This past week, the Zonta Club of Marathon hosted its annual “Festival of Trees” at the Florida Keys Country Club, the site of its monthly meetings. 

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas in the Middle Keys.

One hundred twenty-five tickets were sold to guests who wanted to see 41 Christmas trees lit up and adorned in every imaginable way at the Zonta event. The party-goers also enjoyed dinner, music and dancing provided by Eric Byoff and the local band, In Pursuit.

Christmas trees ranging from 2 to 8 feet tall carried gift certificates as well as traditional decorations like garland and ornaments that some Marathon residents had lost in September’s Hurricane Irma. The storm devastated oceanfront homes and flooded streets throughout the Middle and Lower Keys.

Visitors to the country club could see the trees last week and buy raffle tickets to win them, but the gala eve was Saturday, Dec. 2.

Charlotte Quinn, a longtime Zonta member and current president of the group, said the “Festival of Trees” traditionally raises funds for college-bound high school students as well as for adults who are continuing their education.

Quinn, her event co-chair Yesenia Ramirez and members were concerned that this year’s tickets may have been a tough sell due to people being more concerned with rebuilding work related to Irma, but their fears were quickly allayed. 

“People were ready to have something happy to celebrate and something pretty to gaze upon,” Quinn said. “Plus, I believe people want to support scholarships. The timing was just right.”

The trees were donated by area businesses and individuals, including several Zonta members. In addition to the trees, guests purchased raffle tickets for Christmas wreathes, gift baskets, mystery boxes and a treasure box. Additionally, a silent auction raised scholarship funds as well.

“It was great to work with Jim Donnelly, the country club’s food and beverage director,” Quinn said. Although some areas of the country club received damage, the dining venue was fine, she said.

In addition to this fundraising event, the Zonta Club encourages women who are uninsured or underinsured to inquire about free mammograms. The Marathon Zonta Club was chartered in 1990 with 21 members. Founded by Judy Greenman and Linda DeGrinder, it now boasts nearly 50 members from the Middle Keys. 

In 1997, the Zonta Club of Marathon became the youngest club to receive the Governor’s Cup for outstanding achievement within its district. And it is the commitment of Zonta’s members that enable scholarships for students and adults to benefit from the joyous holiday tradition that sells out every year.

A member for nine years before a health-related hiatus and now in her second year after rejoining, Quinn is back working hard for the Zonta Club. New members are always welcome, she added.

To find out more about the organization, write to the Zonta Club of Marathon, P.O. Box 500972, Marathon, FL 33050.