Tree grows into community effort

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 10, 1999

Pat Harris has wanted to decorate a special Christmas tree for 24 years. This year, with the help of neighbors, friends and family, her Christmas wish has come true in a big way.

Shining brightly against the night sky at 141 Otis Redding Drive in the Broadmoor community is a large cedar tree more than twice as tall as the Harris house.

Twenty-four years ago, it was her daughter Patrice’s Christmas tree.

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When that Christmas was over, Pat planted the tree in the front yard, where it has grown ever since.

&uot;For many years, I said I wish I could decorate that tree,&uot; Harris said.

Her cousin, Jim Prater Jr., told her to pray about it.

&uot;He said, ‘You never know what God’s angels will do,’&uot; Harris said.

Several days later, Harris said her sister Bobbie Cain called and told her Prater had left 600 lights for the tree at the home of Cain and Harris’ parents.

Not long afterward, Harris’ next door neighbor, Betty Jefferson, brought over more lights. Then Jefferson told neighbor Florida Johnson about Harris’ tree.

&uot;Mrs. Johnson said ‘I’m gonna get some lights, too!’&uot; said Jefferson.

So the first Sunday of December, three people gathered to string lights on the tree.

&uot;It started with my sister Bobbie, my cousin Jim and me,&uot; said Harris.

Prater was the brave soul to climb high into the tree to help guide the lights around the cedar limbs.

Also that Sunday, Ruth Barnes, mother of Harris and Cain, arrived with more lights. Family friend Mary Washington who lives nearby on Southmoor Street also arrived bearing lights. Barnes and Washington tediously unraveled the strings of lights and checked all the bulbs.

With Prater’s agility inside the tree and Harris and Cain to guide the lights with poles from the outside, they have so far placed 4,900 lights on what Harris has dubbed &uot;The Friendship Tree.&uot;

The star at the top of the tree was donated by Harris’ 1-year-old grandson, Tylan Murray.

The Friendship Tree continues to grow brighter.

&uot;I would wake up in the morning and find a box of lights at the door,&uot; Harris said.

The entire Jefferson family next door has gotten in on the Friendship Tree. Jefferson’s husband, Emmitt, and sons, Lamont, Prentiss and Wardell have all donated money to buy lights for the Friendship Tree.

Friends Carol King, Gerald Phillips and Donna Conner have also appeared at Harris’ door with Christmas tree lights.

&uot;We have a sense of community here in Broadmoor that you don’t find easily,&uot; Harris said.

Harris said it was a miracle that the little cedar Christmas tree took root and began to grow 24 years ago.

Now Harris plans to continue to add lights to her special Christmas tree.

&uot;I’m going to leave them up year round for every blessed event,&uot; she said.