By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- The holiday season begins for Pat Bennett every year when she takes a step into pine-aroma-filled Williams Barn off Chicopee Row.
With scissors in her hand, Bennett grabs one wreath at a time from piles that cover the barn's floor and snips off branches that stick out. When dressing the wreaths with bows and pine cones for the Groton Woman's Club's annual Green Sale, Bennett said it's important to make sure the hooks in the back are secured tightly so that the wreaths don't fall from the doors.
Such caring makes Bennett the "chief quality-control inspector" for the eight-year-old fundraising green sale, said Nancy Olson, a club member.
"I'm counting on you!" Tracey Molaskey also told Bennett, as both kept busy preparing the wreaths inside the barn on Monday.
Having veteran volunteers like Bennett, who can guide novice wreath-makers, is important for the Green Sale, Molaskey said. But what truly makes the Green Sale a success is the enthusiasm of all volunteers who come together in hopes of raising enough money for the club's high-school scholarship program.
"Everybody has a common cause. It's nice to work that way," Olson said.
Members of the Groton Woman's Club have begun assembling hundreds of wreaths for the annual Green Sale to be held on Saturday, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Williams Barn at 160 Chicopee Row.
This year's sale will feature 402 wreaths, 70 swags, dozens of kissing balls and decorative items, such as "ever-lasting Victorian sleighs" and tablecloths, according to Olson, who leads the Green Sale activities along with Molaskey. When they are all hung from the walls and beams inside the barn for the Green sale, they transform the mid-19th-century structure on town conservation land into a winter wonderland, Molaskey said.
"It's magical when you first walk in," said Molaskey, who saw it for the first time six years ago and decided to join the Woman's Club.
Many local residents would agree. Visiting the barn and picking a wreath while sauntering through the Cookie Mile -- an aisle of home-baked cookies set up inside the barn -- and sipping hot cocoa has become a holiday tradition for many area families over the years.
The Groton Woman's Club, which was founded 100 years ago as a service organization, took over the Green Sale that the former Nashoba Community Hospital -- now called Nashoba Valley Medical Center -- used to run eight years ago. It is the biggest fundraiser for the club, which gave out seven $1,000 scholarships to local high-school students, Bennett said.
Club members begin preparing for the Green Sale in June each year with purchase of decorative bows, though actual assembly takes place during the Thanksgiving weekend when about 20 volunteers get together at the barn. They use ribbons and balls that come in a range of colors and textures to decorate the wreaths so that there will be something for everyone to buy at the sale.
Molaskey, for one, likes to make something that is pleasing to the eye.
"I just keep trying until I like it," Molaskey said, as she inserted mountain laurel leaves into wreaths.
Ann Walsh, former Groton town accountant, understands Molaskey's feelings.
But "you have to know where to stop," or a wreath would become too decked out, Walsh said.
Walsh said she also enjoys getting together with fellow club members for the wreath making.
"It's a great group of women. They care about the town and they care about each other," Walsh said, explaining why she has been a part of it for the past 10 years.
Volunteers also enjoy sharing their creative ideas for wreaths.
"It's nice when you make something and somebody likes it enough to buy it," Walsh said.
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