Downtown Birmingham tree contest raises funds for local foster teens

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 16, 2021

 The Birmingham restaurant Hazel, Ravines and Downtown crafted  a tree entirely out of menus  during last year’s The Great  Decorate Contest.

The Birmingham restaurant Hazel, Ravines and Downtown crafted a tree entirely out of menus during last year’s The Great Decorate Contest.

Photo provided by The Great Decorate

 The all-red tree at Tender earned the  People’s Choice Award during last year’s  The Great Decorate contest.

The all-red tree at Tender earned the People’s Choice Award during last year’s The Great Decorate contest.

Photo provided by The Great Decorate

Advertisement

BIRMINGHAM — Restaurants and retail stores in downtown Birmingham are once again teaming up to make the holidays bright for local foster teens.

Over 20 downtown merchants have created elaborate holiday trees for The Great Decorate this year, each one representing a local foster teen with the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, a statewide information and referral service for families interested in adoption.

Beth Hussey, the co-owner of Hazel, Ravines and Downtown restaurant — along with friend Tara Fortney, a foster parent — dreamed up The Great Decorate in 2019 as a team-building competition among restaurant staff that ended up raising funds to help support eight foster teens.

The contest gained so much attention that it expanded to include 32 downtown businesses last year — despite being in the thick of COVID-19 — and raised $40,000, which was evenly split among 20 local foster teens.

“Everyone pivoted and came up with ways to raise money and show off their tree, even though they couldn’t have people inside. It was so heartwarming,” Hussey said of last year’s contest.

Organizers hope to raise even more funds this year to support teens aging out of the foster system. Participating businesses stand to win something this year, too — the business that earns the most public votes will receive $6,000, while the business with the judges’ favorite tree will receive $6,000.

Beginning Nov. 18, visitors who head to Birmingham to shop, dine and stroll through the city are encouraged to enjoy the tree displays, vote for their favorite and make a donation in any amount in person or online at thegreatecorate.com through Dec. 31. All donations made through The Great Decorate nonprofit are tax deductible and will be divided equally among each of the foster teens on their 18th birthdays.

Each year, approximately 26,500 teens age out of the foster care system and are forced to live independently. In Michigan, that accounts for 1,700 teens in need.

Jessica Thompson, the director of the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, noted that youth in foster care aren’t there due to a fault of their own.

“At any given time, we are trying to raise awareness for and recruit loving adoptive homes for 200-300 foster youth, the majority of whom are 10 years of age or older, who have a goal of adoption and don’t already have an identified family that has stepped forward for them,” Thompson said in an email. “There are so many wonderful youth that just want and need a family.”

For more information about Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange, visit www.mare.org or call, 1-800-589-6273. For more information about The Great Decorate or to donate to the cause, visit thegreatdecorate.com.

Advertisement