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Events light town to start holidays

Holiday charity events help ring in the season beginning this week.

For readers seeing this on Tuesday, there's time to get to Hospice of the Gorge's "Light up a Life" celebration at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. The special tree-lighting ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. in the hotel ballroom, where refreshments will be served and all attending will have a chance to offer a tribute in remembrance of someone special.

The ceremony continues outside the hotel with lighting and decorating of the hospice tree. The tree will shine until early January, when another ceremony will be held and the names of hospice patients who died during 2001 will be read.

On Thursday, the Hood River Hotel hosts its annual tree trimming party in the hotel lobby from 5 to 8 p.m. Kids and adults alike are invited to help decorate the 17-foot tree, enjoy refreshments and live music by local musicians. The party is the kick-off for the holiday Food and Toy Drive, held in conjunction with the Hood River Christmas Project and FISH food bank. New unwrapped toys and canned or dry goods can be placed under the tree until Dec. 20, when they will be distributed to local individuals and families.

Along with the tree trimming, the hotel will be open for room tours as part of its annual open house. The hotel, built in 1913, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Hood River County Christmas Project is in full swing, with food and toy drives and fundraising efforts underway at churches, schools businesses and service clubs. The "Tree of Joy" is up at Wal-Mart, where people can pick a child's wish off a tree and buy a gift specifically for him or her. All donations will be assembled at the Expo Center during the week of Dec. 10 for distribution to families Dec. 14-15.

The Christmas Project anticipates serving at least 500 needy families this year. Each senior and child receives a small gift and each family, including senior households, receives a food basket. Donations (including cash) can be made to U.S. Bank in the Heights or mailed to the Christmas Project, P.O. Box 682, Hood River. Volunteers are needed to collect donations, assemble baskets and deliver them to the disabled. For more information call Sherril or Irv Smith at 354-2619 or e-mail them at irvandsher@gorge.net.

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