Carroll County Times

Legion auxiliary fundraiser and farmer's market grow Hampstead tradition

Hampstead American Legion Auxiliary will be bringing its Legion Lights fundraiser back again this month, following very successful inaugural year for the event last fall.
Years past had seen all of the trees behind the Hampstead war memorial lit up with white lights for the holidays, but last year, the auxiliary lit the tree up in red, white and blue, according to Stacey Nash, treasurer of the auxiliary.
As with last year's Legion Lights fundraiser, Nash said, members of the legion and the public can purchase a light for $5 in honor of a living person - veteran or civilian - or in memory of someone who has passed on.
Nash said that the funds raised will go directly to the auxiliary's programs such as sending care packages to soldiers overseas and its scholarship fund for local students.
Last year, the auxiliary sold 347 lights and, according to Nash, raised a total of $2,240, thanks in part to many people donating more than the $5 per light that was asked.
"It's a great, simple fundraiser for us. A lot of our fundraisers require a lot of help from a lot of people, but this is a really simple way to donate to your local auxiliary," Nash said. "You don't have to bake anything or sell anything and you can give people a smile as they drive through town."
Nash said that those who wish to purchase lights in someone's honor should send their name, the name of the person they are honoring and payment in cash or check to 4600 Legion Lane, Hampstead, MD 21074, with checks made out to "H.A.L.A. Unit 200."
After the tree is lit during the annual Hampstead tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 22, Nash will take photographs of the tree that will be printed on postcards and sent to both those who purchased lights and to the person or persons honored by that purchase.
"[Last year,] we got a couple of notes from folks when they sent their light donation in and they would say it was great or they would tell the story of their veteran coming home and being excited about being able to give them their postcard with the tree on it," Nash said. "It's just nice that if you bought a light, you think of that person every time you drive past the tree."
Elinore Frush, of Manchester, is a member of the Hampstead Auxiliary who purchased a number of lights last year and plans to again this year.
"I think it's a nice gift to send to someone and it brightens their day. I got my neighbors one, and they even went down and picked which light was theirs," Frush said. "I would say that it's our plan to make this a tradition."
According to Hampstead Mayor Chris Nevin, the Legion Lights fundraiser is a logical addition to the town's tree lighting tradition, an event that Nevin said has been growing steadily since it's inception in the late '90s.
"[The tree lighting ceremony is] a great community event in quintessential small town America. It's really, really grown over the years. The number of people coming is a little weather dependent, but rain or shine we have it no matter what. Last year we had on the order of 500," Nevin said. "The American Legion tree is a great fundraiser and another way to bring the community together."
The tree lighting ceremony will run from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. and will include musical performances by children from Spring Garden Elementary School, a visit from Santa Claus - who will ride in on a fire truck - and hot chocolate and cookies from St. John's United Methodist Church next door to the war memorial, according to Nevin.
This year will also feature the first Hampstead Farmer's Market Christmas Market from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Old Hampstead Art House building across Main Street from the war memorial, according to Hampstead Councilwoman Marlene Duff, manager of the market.
The Christmas market will include vendors offering crafts and baked goods, as well as a model train layout, according to Marlene, who said that the hope is that more activities can be permanently added to the tree lighting tradition.
"Over the past five or six years, more and more people seem to come," Duff said. "I think with the food at St. Johns and the market across the street that maybe it will grow a little bit more, that's what we hope."