SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The Altrusa Festival of Trees is back at the Santa Maria mall. The annual raffle raises money for scholarships and grants for local high school students. The festival has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in over a decade.
“I think the people just like to come in here, they like to get the feel of Christmas," said Melinda Aguirre, President at Altrusa of the Central Coast Foundation.
Since 2003, the organization has held the Festival of Trees at the Town Center.
“It's a nice way for families to come and get back into the Christmas spirit," said Benjamin Choy, a member of Righetti High School's Astra Club.
The group is one of many organizations and businesses participating as sponsors.
“It's wonderful. The kids are awesome, they love giving back to the community," said Astra Club advisor and Altrusa member, Dana Debernardi-Watson. “The kids come up with the theme, decorate the tree, shop for the tree, do it all.”
The annual two-week festival is Altrusa's biggest fundraiser in Santa Maria.
“The money that we collect goes back to grants and scholarships," said Aguirre.
Organization's like Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley donate a tree, and gifts that families can win at a raffle.
“The price for our tree is $1,000 cash price," said Samantha Yruegas of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley. "We also got gift card donations from members in our community.”
“Every year I think, 'Oh, that's it. People are gonna get really burned out'," said Aguirre.
But that hasn't been the case. Altrusa has raised more than $850,000 in the last decade and a half. Last year, it raised $62,000, and hopes to beat that goal this December.
"I wanna shoot for 70 [thousand dollars], but 65 [thousand dollars] is good, too," said Aguirre.
Raffle tickets are a dollar.
“Last year we got a lot of families that were not gonna have Christmas 'cause there wasn't much money," Altrusa's president said. "And they were just crying their eyes out because they were just so excited about winning a tree and having gifts.”
The drawing is December 15th at 1 p.m. The last day to buy tickets is December 14th. The Festival of Trees is located on the second floor of the Santa Maria Town Center, next to Sergio's Furniture Store.