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'Tree Lady' makes Christmas season bright for Butte's senior citizens

Posted at 11:11 AM, Dec 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-12 13:15:54-05

BUTTE — Throughout the year, more than 70 Christmas trees are stored in the basement of Big Sky on Waterford in Butte. Now, they may start in the basement, but they end up here on all three floors of the senior center so its residents can enjoy a literal Christmas forest.

“There you go. And now we just have to do about 70 more of them,” said Carolyn Cornelius.

For the last 13 years, Carolyn has been decking the halls of this senior living facility with dozens upon dozens of Christmas trees for the residents to enjoy. She begins right after Thanksgiving, and it takes her about three weeks to complete.

“I like to do my work at night because in the morning it can be a Christmas surprise. For days and days they go around saying, ‘What tree did she put up?’” said Cornelius.

Many residents appreciate the nostalgia the decorations conjure.

“We always had good Christmases and I love Christmas and the trees and all the decorations,” said resident Joan Shannon.

Big Sky staff member Hillary Marcum added, “You know, each resident can find something, one tree, even if it’s one ornament that’s hanging on a tree that really speaks to them. And to see that smile on their face, and they may not have smiled in a really long time, really means a lot.”

Carolyn has a few helpers, which makes their work go smoothly after all these years—though sometimes, oh no! Ornaments do get broken.

“Accidents happen,” Cornelius said.

Volunteer Denise Horne said, “And can you imagine just living in this beautiful place and it’s covered with all these decorations and it’s so nice, so my mother-in-law just gets to step out of her apartment and here they all are.”

This seems like a lot of work, but it must be rewarding to you, huh?

“You know, when it’s something you love it’s not work,” said Cornelius.

People can see the display at the Parade of Trees event on Dec. 19 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Big Sky on Waterford.