Of the Baker City Herald

Ask Chrisanne Hindman what satisfaction she gets out of helping 200 elementary school students make Christmas ornaments out of clay, and shell tell you this story.

She had explained the process to the first class she assisted this fall: roll polymer clay; carefully form it into a pattern of three letters or numbers; and hang the ornament from a spun piece of wire before its off to the oven for 20 minutes at just 250 degrees.

But it all seemed too much for that first class.

They just werent getting it, she recalled. Just as I was beginning to think this wasnt a very good project, I noticed one boys ornament. Hed worked a horse, a unicorn and a dragon head into each number. They werent perfectly formed, but they were easily recognizable.

When I showed it to his teacher, she was amazed. She told me he was barely reading and writing. I told her, Heres your glimmer of hope for this kid.

You could see him beaming, and hes probably not a kid who beams too much.

After completing a session with Frances Lovelaces fourth graders at North Baker Elementary School Thursday, Hindman is reaching the end of an ambitious project: with seven classes down, she has two more to go before shes helped students fashion enough ornaments to decorate what will no doubt be an immense Christmas tree.

The tree will be just one of many to be auctioned during the Festival of Trees, a holiday fund-raiser sponsored by the St. Elizabeth Health Services Foundation. Tickets for the two-day event, to be held at the Oregon Trail Regional Museum Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, are on sale now at four Baker City locations: the hospital, Ryder Brothers Stationery, The Sycamore Tree and Pioneer Bank.

Friday evenings gala is $25. It will include an elegant hors doeuvre and dessert buffet, no-host bar, live background music and, most importantly, a silent and live Christmas tree auction to help the hospital pay for its new Helical CT scanner, a state-of-the-art diagnostic tool for the radiology department.

Zane Lockwood, co-chair of the festival and chairman of the hospital foundation, called the new scanner a truly welcome benefit to the Baker County community.

Its a piece of equipment that cant be outdone with respect to precision and image quality by any other brand scanner in the world, he said.

Part II of the celebration, set for 10 a.m. through 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, will also be held at the museum and is being billed as Family Day. Santa Claus will make himself available to children for professionally-taken photographs aboard his sleigh. A Christmas bazaar hosted by Friends of the Museum will be offered, as well as musical entertainment and a tour of the 20 decorated trees auctioned off the previous night.

Admission to family day will be a can of food.

Questions from young crafters

You do a craft enough times with enough students as Hindman certainly has and you get used to the myriad of questions that they pepper at you.

Do we have to make it just like yours? one child wants to know.

No, you can be as creative as you want to be just make it look like XYZ, Hindman replies, a poet though she may not know it.

Why do we fold the wire into fourths? It makes the hanger stronger, she says.

What happens to the ornaments? prompts a discussion of the festival and its fundraising aim.

As she and adult volunteers Cathy Martin and Candice McKim circled the room to help the 23 students, Lovelace paused to talk about why its important to take class time in October to make Christmas ornaments.

I think its good for kids to do service projects, to do things that benefit other people, she said. Its something weve been working on as a school and as a school district.