Wreath your neighbor in help - bid on circles of piney joy.

Wreathes of Joy will be held Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Chatfield Center for the Arts' (CCA) Legion Room. A collection of wreathes, decorated by residents and businesses of the Chatfield area, will be displayed for public bidding at an auction at the event. This will be followed by a small gala featuring hors d' oeuvres and conversation.

"We invite a lot of people from Chatfield and the community to join us in decorating wreathes," said Help Our Neighbors (HON) member Bill Sullivan. "There'll be a booklet at the gala that features the wreathes and who made them."

The booklet also explains why the artists or community members made the wreathes; what their organization stands for and why they decorated the wreathes the way they did.

Sullivan related that Chatfield area tree farmer Tim Gossman agreed to supply greens for wreath making and HON gathered approximately 30 wreathes through mid-November and distributed them to individuals and businesses in the area.

They were distributed just before Thanksgiving and the HON members encouraged people to decorate them however they'd like - with a Christmas, personal values or business theme, whatever they'd like - and get into the spirit of the season.

"I hope people have a good time decorating the wreathes," Sullivan said. "They'll get a good, quality basic wreath made by hand in Chatfield and they can let their creativity go."

Sullivan is convinced that this is a great way to have fun around the holidays...it's a natural holiday theme. "The main thing is that we're hoping not just to raise funds, but also to raise awareness of HON in the community," he added.

Proceeds will benefit HON's mission to help senior citizens in the Chatfield area remain in their homes as long as possible through the provision of chore assistance, respite care, workshops and events.

"This hopefully helps us reduce the amount we charge for chore services. We hope to help keep seniors in their homes - we'd like to be the one-stop shop for chore services," Sullivan related.

HON has held workshops, like A Matter of Balance and some on chronic diseases. It has held a health fair, a walking program, coffees and educational classes.

"If people can come to them, it's great, but the main thing is keeping people in their houses and getting them access to someone who can change a light bulb for them," Sullivan said. "We have gift cards for families to purchase for their loved ones so that when they need someone to change a light bulb, rake leaves, mow the lawn and other things so that when families come to visit, they don't have a mile-long chore list waiting for them."

HON was started through a three-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) that funded its launch and the hiring of director Sue Awes, but the volunteers who have already served for the first 18 months are seeking to extend the benefits HON provides.

"The grant has been very generous for the first years, but then it ends, so we want to plan how to sustain it so that it's not just a flash in the pan," Sullivan said.

Though additional funding has yet to be secured, the organization is always looking for volunteers.

"We want to build enough of a volunteer base to do clerical work, outdoor work, do housekeeping. We have an orientation program that's a good way to start," he added. "Younger people who have kids often ask what they can do to help, but there are some who say that they volunteer to model behavior for their kids, and empty nesters who have retired and have all this time to help out can bring skills and spread the word to the community. If they tell stories about what we can do, we can build our numbers and help our seniors."

Sullivan and his fellow HON volunteers are enthusiastic about their organization's first fundraising effort.

"I'm hoping there are people there who bid on them, and I hope this is a beginning," he concluded.

Wreath viewing is slated for Sunday, Dec. 8, from noon to 4 p.m. at the CCA Legion Room, after which the gala will begin at 4:30 and last until 6:30 p.m.

Tickets for the wreath viewing are $5 at the door, and tickets for the gala are limited to 60 and are available only in advance through the HON office for $25 each. For more information, contact Sue Awes at (507) 251-0520.