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Sellwood and Westmoreland neighbors keep towering tree lit

by: David F. Ashton At night, the community tree casts a warm feeling of Christmas over Oaks Bottom – and is clearly visible across the river.

As they have for the last two decades, the Hainley and Heiberg families, with the help of SMILE, have enlisted their friends and neighbors for a tree decorating operation larger than most. This community Christmas Tree, visible from Interstate Five across the Willamette River and even from points downtown, is what the giant evergreen next to Wilhelm's Portland Memorial becomes every Thanksgiving.

The merry band of volunteers was at work, unrolling long strings of lights, testing bulbs and draping the multi-colored luminaries on the tree, on November 19.

'We've given Brad Heiberg the year off for the first time in 20 years,' smiled Matt Hainley, as he prepared another string of lights to be hoisted. 'He's down at the college football game - but his family and many new friends are here helping out.'

Why do they brave the cold and elements every year?

'It's important for us to do this because it's become a neighborhood tradition,' explained Hainley. 'And it's fun because of the great people who help out, hang out, and eat doughnuts.'

But, the best part, Hainley admits, is on Thanksgiving evening - when they 'throw the switch' to light up the tree for the Holidays. 'That's when the little kid comes out in me.'

As Isaac Hainley, aloft and tied off at the tree's top, asks for another string of lights, Hainley added, 'We thank Wilhelm's Portland Memorial for providing the electricity every year, SMILE for paying for the lights, crane, and equipment, and Grand Central Bakery for donating the food.'