Suiting Up for a Good Cause - The Missourian: Features People

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Suiting Up for a Good Cause

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Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 12:30 am

Having worked with a furry, black and yellow bee the past 10 years, I know what others experience wearing the costume. Inside Newsbee’s head the temperature is stifling, and it’s hard to maneuver in his humongous blue shoes. Not being able to see where you’re going making tripping and tipping over a problem.

I’ve always had great admiration for those who wing it as Newsbee, and we’ve had some stalwart volunteers over the years, especially Miss B, who shall remain anonymous.

At the Pumpkin Palooza this Saturday in Downtown Washington you might run into a few trees, figuratively speaking, that is. Seven or so good souls decked out as Christmas trees will be at the festival.

They’re promoting the Tannenbaum Auction on Nov. 15 from 6-9:30 p.m. at The Homestead at Hickory View, an event benefiting the Friends of Emmaus. If $20,000 is raised, a grant will provide the remaining funds to purchase two vans with lifts for the Emmaus Home.

Reliable transportation is a pressing concern. Imagine loading up special needs folks and then having a van break down, said Marilyn Rau, one of the trees spreading a forest of good tidings.

Last year, when the tree promotion took root, only one gal spruced herself up and hit the streets — my friend and Homestead marketer, Barb Hellmann. She’s outgoing and has never met a stranger.

But for those of us who are a bit more reserved, walking the streets and visiting festivals and craft fairs in Kelly green with an elfin-like cap to match can be disarming. Barb realizes this and was surprised that Marilyn agreed to volunteer — thought she might be barking up the wrong tree. That hasn’t been the case.

It’s not hard at all, Marilyn said. Once she puts on her “Christmas Candy” themed tree costume, she steps into a role she loves, one she undertook because she believes in the work the people do at the Emmaus Home. Previously, her husband Ed was on the board there.

Being a tree offers Marilyn the opportunity to have fun, work with an amazing group of people, and support the auction in a unique way.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Next February, Marilyn will be uprooted. After 27 years at Ed’s Drilling and Blasting, she will retire.

Marilyn was discussing this over lunch with her friend Bonnie Soetebier and mentioned wanting to get involved with community. Bonnie had already branched out, and couldn’t wait to pull her friend into the grove. After one meeting, Marilyn was hooked.

Each tree is given a basic costume, designed and sewn by Katie Geisert, director at The Homestead. The volunteers are then asked to decorate their tree in a theme of their choosing.

At the fundraiser, the costumes will be judged and the winning tree will be auctioned off.

The beauty of bee-ing Newsbee is that you can’t speak and can hide inside, but the trees are exposed, not only to the elements but to a multitude of stares. They get lots of “Why are you dressed up like that,” and requests for photos.

It seems everyone wants a picture with the evergreens. Probably the funniest comment Marilyn heard was when her sister came to town and portrayed a tree too.

“We’re just wondering if your husbands know you’re dressed up like this,” quipped a group of middle-aged men.

“Yes, and they didn’t ax the idea,” might have been a fitting reply.

All kidding aside, suiting up for a cause has been really rewarding, Marilyn said. Perhaps the most “extraordinary” happenstance came from a family from India, none of whom could speak English. It didn’t matter, Marilyn said. “They just crowded around us,” completely enthralled despite language and cultural differences.

It seems good works know no boundaries.

The other trees this year are Sandy Stierberger, Bonnie Soetebier, Mary Fischer, Diane VonAhn, Dorothy Vaughan, Barb Hellmann and Betty Gildehaus. Tannenbaum coordinator is Gayle Hachman.

/features_people