The Beauty of Local Holiday Giving – Holiday Giving Trees 2012

Life sized gingerbread house made with real gingerbread byChautauqua Suites' Executive Chef, Lisa Sheldon with the assistance of Watermark Chef, Dave Carlson.
Life sized gingerbread house made with real gingerbread by
Chautauqua Suites’ Executive Chef, Lisa Sheldon with the assistance of Watermark Chef, Dave Carlson.

“Guests walk in the door and simply say ‘How Beautiful!’”

They are awed by a fairy tale forest of fifty magnificent Christmas trees awaiting their enjoyment and inspection. “We had a big party, with just about everybody here all at once putting them up,” said Patti Centi, General Manager at Chautauqua Suites Meeting & Expo Center in Mayville, New York. “Everybody was so enthusiastic and encouraging about each other’s trees. Then they kept coming back all week to add more festive touch-ups.”

“Since November 30th,” Centi explained to a recent visitor, “public spirited local businesses, non-profit organizations and charities accepted our invitation to decorate their own special Christmas trees right here in our main lobby, our hallways and restaurants.” Guests and diners might even agree the Christmas creativity on display at Chautauqua Suites would be right at home on New York City’s famous Fifth and Madison Avenues, Macy’s and Rockefeller’s Center holiday storefronts; it’s Chautauqua County’s own “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The Grand Tree of Chautauqua Suites, decorated by Patti Centi and daughters Megan and Kristin.
The Grand Tree of Chautauqua Suites, decorated by Patti Centi and daughters Megan and Kristin.

“Holiday Giving Trees 2012” is a celebration of the generosity, caring and civic pride of local charities, historic societies and service organizations that benefit Chautauqua County’s citizens with no desire or plan to ever profit by their own good works. Organizations as diverse as Hospice Chautauqua County, The Chautauqua Lake Assn. and Meals On Wheels will benefit from each vote cast by a visitor to Chautauqua Suite’s thoroughfare of Christmas fantasy and romance. See page XX for a list of the non-profits and local businesses whose festively decorated trees are on exhibit.

“We’ve already banked more than $3,000 for the organizations on display here,” said Stephanie Jackson-Brown, Chautauqua Suites Events Manager, “and the display has only been up for about two weeks.” According to Manager Centi, 100 percent of all voting proceeds go directly to the organization selected by each person’s vote.

Anyone who stops by the front desk until Dec. 28, whether simply visiting, coming to dine at the Suite’s fine restaurant or lounge or checking in as a guest, can purchase a single $1 ticket, or may purchase 10 tickets for $10 to enter the donor’s name in the drawing to win one of two wonderful baskets that were donated by the NPO’s and the sponsors. Voters deposit tickets in the ballot box for a favorite tree or trees. There’s no limit to how many votes an appreciative visitor may cast. Trees will remain on display until the first week in January.

Many local businesses donated the $50 fee to erect a tree in support of a non-profit organization of their choice. The entry fee, like the voting dollars, is also banked by Chautauqua Suites for each organization. “Every tree is different and beautiful in its own right,” Centi said. “Every group put so much work into what they did; it’s magnificent.”

To start everyone off right, Centi explained that the Suites donated the 50 trees and made sure they were as close to identical as possible; each six feet tall, straight and fully branched. “The effort everybody put in was wonderful. There was some friendly rivalry, but everyone truly appreciated the others and enjoyed each other’s company putting all this together.”

Another one of the trees at Chautauqua Suites.
Another one of the trees at Chautauqua Suites.

Many of the decorations are hand made by people who work for the organizations or receive their benefits. Children’s decorations, ornaments made by the handicapped, pictures of loved ones and even dog treats and leashes from K-9 Rescue, adorn the trees. Other displays are both informative and humorous. The Lawson Boating Heritage Center, for instance, with a beautiful nautical display, has also given Santa his own Chris-Craft speed boat, and The Robert H. Jackson Center proudly presents Jamestown’s world wide role in international law.

“We’ve also invited schools to bring their students,” Centi added. “One school accepted the invitation and their students learned a lot about these organizations and businesses.” Church and civic groups are also welcome to visit.

The staff of Chautauqua Suites also pitched in and made this event their own. Their contributions include a real, life-sized gingerbread house, made from hundreds of real, mouthwateringly aromatic gingerbread bricks, lots of candy and genuine, sweet icing for mortar. The construction crew was spearheaded by Suites Executive Chef, Lisa Sheldon, and Watermark Chef Dave Carlson. The Main Tree, donated by landscaper Greg Auge, decked out in the star shine of white lights and brilliant gold, was put up by Patti Centi and her daughters, Megan and Kristin.

An important goal of “Holiday Giving Trees 2012” goes well beyond presenting a beautiful display of Christmas traditions and decorations. “We want to raise awareness as well as donations for the organizations in Chautauqua County,” Jackson-Brown said. “Giving back is what Christmas is all about. In the most important ways, in this competition, Everybody wins.”

Open House hours are from 9am to 7pm every day through December 28. Chautauqua Suites is located at 215 W. Lake Road in Mayville, New York. For more information call (716) 269-7829 or visit

Local Benevolent Organizations Benefited: ALS CASA YWCA CCIDA CRESH Hospice Robert Jackson Hurlbut Church The Relief Zone Humane Society Meals On Wheels Boys & Girls Club The Lawson Center The Resource Center Rodger Tory Peterson VFW Home For Children Child Advocacy Program CBA (vision rehab service) Living Beyond Brest Cancer Family Services Chq. Region Chautauqua Ladies Auxiliary Chautauqua Lake Association Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center Northern Chautauqua Canine Rescue.

Local Businesses Contributing Trees In Support of NPOs: US Foods Watermark The Marina Tim Murphy Anytime Fitness Empire Liqueur Sweet Pea Floral Perfection Digital Franchesca’s Floral Mayville Hardware ERA Team VP Realitors Wing City Grill (Lakewood)