PAULDING – What started out as a fundraiser to help the John Paulding Historical Society recover some money lost, due to the cancelation of the 2020 Festival of Trees, has blossomed into a highly competitive and successful feature at the 2021 Festival of Trees.

Last year, Rhonda Bakle set out on a mission to help the John Paulding Historical Society and have a little fun. She took the idea from the Festival of Trees and expanded on it, adding competitive categories and prizes. Don and Perry’s Furniture store graciously put all of the wreaths on display in their show windows for all to see.

The Festival of Wreaths was exclusively done on Facebook last year. This year, however, it is on display in the historical society for all and see. There are 58 wreaths to bid on and the bidding closes at 5 p.m. on Novemeber 13. Once all the bids have been calculated all winners will be announced and prizes will be distributed. The bidding is exclusively done on Facebook. Visit the Paulding Ohio Festival of Wreaths to place all bids.

There are six categories that have prizes. There will also be a drawing for a “thank you basket.” Only those that donated wreaths who entered into that drawing.

Bakle wanted to add just a little more this year to this outstanding fundraiser. She visited the two preschools in Paulding and brought all the supplies for them to create wreaths. Wayne Trace Payne Elementary and a local Girl Scout Troop participated as well. Those wreaths, once the festival is over, will be taken to every nursing home in Paulding County to place on each resident’s door. Visitors of the Festival of Wreaths are encouraged to donate to sponsor a wreath, as well.

“Every wreath has a back story and that’s what makes this so special,” Bakle excitedly stated. This year, there was a wreath made as a tribute to the late Paulding County Commissioner, Clint Vance. Bakle can describe the back story of each wreath. Upon receiving them she takes the time to talk with each creator to learn not only more about them, but what motivates them to participate.

Her successful fundraising efforts go way back to her high school years. When she was in high school a classmate was seriously injured and she was determined to find a way to help him out. The first donation she ever recieved was from Red Angel Pizza. Since then Red Angel Pizza has donated to her fundraisers and this year is no exception.

Bakle enthusiastically told the story about last year’s Festival of Wreaths. Her neighbor boy created a wreath and won the prize for the “most unusual wreath.” She was also in competition for the same prize.

“He would stop me each day and ask, ‘did you get another vote?” she chuckled. She stated that their friendly competition was rather close and a lot of fun to see him so enthused about something.

His prize was a Red Angel Pizza party. He spent several mintues looking through the menu, carefully choosing all the pizza toppings. He carefully considered everyone he would invite and decided to invite his family. To some he might not have won much, but to him it was apparent that it was a pretty big deal. For Bakle, witnessing his excitment and his careful thought and consideration into planning his party brought joy to her heart.

Prior to her successful kick-off of Festival of Wreaths, Bakle orchestrated an immensely successful fundraiser for the Sharing and Caring Food Pantry. She noticed that more often than not people donated only food items. She also understood that while families need food to survive, there might not always be money for hygine items, such as toothpaste, toilet paper and other essentials.

She went to task and reached out to her Facebook friends and asked just for one dollar. She had such an overwhelmingly gracious response that she was able to fill a moving van (donated from Don and Perry’s) full of hygine items for the food pantry.

Not only does she love to do fundraisers, but she has an immense passion for helping out her community. It is people like her that keep a community thriving by pouring in love, passion, time and extending a hand when help is needed.