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Making New Friends and Giving Back at Christmas

Girl Scout Christmas TreeIt is time to share one of my favorite posts of the year: My annual Christmas in the Community tree on behalf of Christmas Tree Market.  And this year I'm especially thrilled that Hometalk.com and CountryLiving.com are giving me a chance to share it on their Home for Christmas blog hop!

Last year, I installed a beautiful tree at COTS shelter for the homeless and it was a wonderful experience.

This year I connected with Bay Area Community Services, a local non-profit that focuses on mental health and elder care services.  The success stories of their programs are amazing:
--BACS services decrease emergency psychiatric visits for participants by 90%! Each visit normally costs taxpayers $12,000.
--BACS’ housing services have an 85% success rate in finding found permanent housing for participants.

--BACS programs allow 95% of enrolled elders to live independently, confident that their basic needs will be met and they are protected from elder abuse!
Bacs logoI installed the tree (a super easy to assemble pre-light 7 foot Mountain Ridge Spruce) in the front room of their Wellness Center.   This facility has been in use since 1969 and is housed in a gorgeous old victorian home which has been converted to community space, offices and support services.
For many of their members this is the only place they will celebrate the holidays, and so having  a tree twinkling in the window is so warm and welcoming.
BACS at christmas
But the best part of this tree is the ornaments we used.  Girl Scout Donated Christmas Tree
Because last year’s experience was so meaningful, I wanted to involve my daughter’s girl scout troop in this year’s tree. So as our holiday community service project, the girls created the ornaments we used on this tree.

Although it was similar to last year's tree theme, we decided that this year we would repeat the 'Silver and Gold' look because that is actually quite meaningful to the girl scouts.  One of the songs the troops sing at the end of their meeting is called "Make New Friends" and the lyrics for the first verse are:
"Make new friends, 

but keep the old..
One is silver,

and the other, gold." 

So we wanted all the ornaments to be silver and gold.. which involved LOTS of glitter!!   We had stars and snowflakes made of popsicle sticks coated in glitter and we also had these darling silver and gold filled plastic ball ornaments:
Easy DIY Girl Scout make new friends ornaments
My daughters troop is composed of 1st graders, so I knew the ornaments had to be easy to make (since we needed so many) and so I came up with this idea that only involved clear plastic ball ornaments and shredded metallic basket fillerSupplies for filled ornaments
1 (2 oz bag) of silver and 1 bag of gold was enough to do more than 100 ornaments. It only takes a pinch for each one (this stuff really fluffs up!) Silver and Gold strand ornaments
Here is a great trick for getting it into the ornaments (since it could get frustrating for the kids):  Use a pencil eraser to stuff the filler in.  The rubber eraser actually “grips” the shreds and helps push it through.  The shreds are really slick and often fingers are too slippery or don’t fit though the opening of ornament! How to fill plastic ornaments
The mixed metallic filler really looks great.Silver and Gold filled ornament
Finally, I wanted to create tags (so the girls could personalize them and so you could understand the theme of the tree.)  I decided to put the lyrics to Make New Friends on the tags and cut them out in the shape of the traditional girl scout trefoil. Silver and Gold Trefoil lables
I actually created a free printable that I am sharing today for other troop leaders to use. Or even better, a Silhouette print and cut file (which automatically cuts them out and punches the hole in them) if you have a Silhouette machine:
Watermarked printable
I had the girls make multiple ornaments, so they would have one to keep, and others to give away, in the spirit of making new friends. 
Make new Friends Girl Scout ornament
We tied the labels on with embroidery thread. Free Printable Girl Scout TagsAnd here is a hint for getting the tags to stay on and lay flat.  INSERT THEM UNDER THE CAP.  If you runt he loop around one of the prongs, they won’t fall off the ornament. How to attach tags to ornaments
 The final cost worked out to about 50-75c each (depending on the size of the ball):
Silver and Gold DIY OrnamentAnd they made the tree lovely!
Girl scout volunteering to decorate treeFor filler I added a few other silver and gold ornaments, but our homemade ones stole the show: Girl Scout Make New Friends OrnamentsThe entire space is so much more cheerful! Silver and Gold Girl Scout TreeAnd of course, we had to send a HUGE THANKS to Christmas Tree Market.  Without them, this wouldn’t be possible.   (I was not compensated for this post, but they did provide both the tree and cover the cost of the ornament supplies) Scout treeThe best gifts aren’t always the ones you get.. they are often the ones you give.
Christmas tree in window

And now, here are some other fabulous posts by Hometalk bloggers as part of the Hometalk.com and CountryLiving.com Home for Christmas tour:

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