Creating Christmas Cheer
By Rachel Reeves
Originally published in
Peninsula People November 2013
The Room evokes Santa’s workshop.
Today, no one sits at the folding tables that stretch the length of this
narrow space, but they are not empty. Loaded with craft supplies and plastic
storage containers spilling bits of Christmas cheer – garland, tiny
ornaments, twigs, golden ribbon – the tables are squeezed into a
room packed with faux fir trees and elaborate wreaths.
Most days of the year, these tables accommodate assembly lines of volunteers
churning out decorations for Torrance Memorial’s signature Holiday
Festival, held annually in the hospital’s parking lot.
The room is home away from home for two Palos Verdes women – Ruth
Daniels and Chris Pavesi, two of three lead designers for the Holiday
Festival who spend the entire year coordinating holiday decorations that
will be sold off to raise money for a new patient tower at Torrance Memorial Hospital.
Daniels and Pavesi serve on the hospital’s boutique committee. They
are responsible for the elaborate decorations stored in this Christmas-themed
closet – faux fir sprayed with fake snow, ornaments embellished
with glitter, wreaths woven with red-gold ribbons.
They do it for the same reasons – it is at once a way to channel
their shared passion for arts and crafts, support their local hospital,
and make a mark on a community they love and appreciate.
“I feel lots of love every time I hear the name Torrance Memorial,”
Daniels said. “We’re happy to pledge what we can and do what
we can, and besides, I love being creative. I worked in real estate for
35 years and I was under the gun a lot, so this is wonderful. I can have
fun and laugh and create.”
Pavesi, who learned to sew when she was 13 and even made her own wedding
gown, has the same enthusiasm for design.
She worked for 36 years as a flight attendant, and in her retirement relishes
the chance to slow down and do something she loves.
“When I retired I just knew I had to give back to this wonderful
community,” Pavesi said. “Luckily for me I met Ruth, and she
introduced me to this wonderful way of giving back. I will stay on. I
know I will. I love being creative.”
Daniels became involved with non-profit organization Las Amigas, which
conceived the Holiday Festival 30 years ago and continues to organize
it. Eventually she assumed responsibility for the design and decoration
arm of the festival committee.
She knew Pavesi already, the women met through their husbands, who serve
together on the board of directors at Torrance Memorial.
One night, at a hospital gala, Daniels asked Pavesi if she “knew
how to make a bow.”
“I looked at her like, really? Everybody knows how,” Pavesi
remembers. “She says, No, they don’t. You’re going to
come and you’re going to help. That’s how it started.”
Today, the two women are ”like peas in a pod.” They collaborate
on one tree – Daniels designs it one year, Pavesi the next –
and this year their work will be up for live auction.
It’s Pavesi’s year, and, in keeping with her affinity for boating
– she and her husband own a yacht – she has chosen a nautical
theme. Her tree will display anchors, lighthouses, sea life, and boats.
One year, the joint tree was decorated in golden swans, and it was the
first tree sold at the gala.
This year, the brigade of decorators is on schedule. The final days before
the festival they will spend shrink-wrapping decorations, loading them
into boxes, and strategizing before game day – Friday, Dec. 6, when
33 Christmas trees, each seven feet tall, are unloaded into the white tent.
“Nothing is built on the trees until the day they go into the tent.”
Daniels explained. “There are so many stepladders and ornaments
and what have you, and all the designers get right to work.”
“The day of – my gosh, it is wild,” Pavesi added. “There’s
so much going on in that tent.”
It’s a hectic lead-up to the culminating event – the gala,
each year a sold-out affair that Pavesi describes as “the most wonderful
“It’s just a feeling I can’t [explain],” she said.
“It’s almost like you’re floating. It’s so beautiful.”
And after the event is done and dusted, Daniels and Pavesi are already
planning next year’s festival decorations.
“Right now I’m thinking, ‘What are we going to do next
year.’ What’s going to be our theme?” Pavesi said, “But
we always come up with something.”