Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg lights up Hope Tree, a project meant to lift spirits, raise donations

For many decades, a rather average-looking tree has stood at the foot of the Walnut Street Bridge in Riverfront Park.

After all these years, it’s finally ready for its close-up.

On Thursday night, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse helped lead the lighting of the Hope Tree of Central PA, a 60-foot sycamore now decorated with 15,000 colored lights, a symbol of hope, as well as a fundraiser.

“The tree will be a source of hope during these uncertain times,” Papenfuse said. “Just like the individual lights on the tree, our community shines brighter with the support of each other.”

According to Papenfuse, Nikos and Terra Phelps, owners of Christmas Décor of Harrisburg, came up with the idea of adorning the sprawling tree to inspire hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After receiving city permission, the couple spent some 17 hours installing thousands of small LED lights donated by Camp Hill-based Twinkly Pro, wrapping the tree’s trunk and branches with waves of color.

“Terra and I were really inspired by stories we’ve heard from throughout the country,” Nikos said. “We wanted to come up with a way that we could help, as well.”

Since the couple’s company installs holiday lighting displays, this project seemed a natural fit for them.

Nikos said that they’re heartbroken for their fellow small business owners, particularly the Harrisburg area’s many independent restaurateurs. So, they believed that the tree could serve as a way both to inspire hope during the health crisis and to raise money for people whose businesses have been hurt.

“Restaurant owners are always giving back [to the community] so we wanted to see what we could do to help them out,” he said.

The money raised won’t be charity for the restaurants, he said. Instead, donations will buy meals from them, with the food then donated to families in need.

“Even if you don’t donate, please support your favorite restaurants, as well,” Nikos said.

Due to the pandemic, the city live-streamed the event on Facebook Live to minimize crowd size and maintain social distancing.

“As it gets darker and darker, the tree will get brighter and brighter,” said Papenfuse, as the sun sank low over the Susquehanna River. “You’ll even be able to see it as far as the west shore.”

The Hope Tree of Central PA project hopes to raise $25,000 through the online fundraiser. To make a donation, visit the project’s Go Fund Me page.

Continue Reading