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Holy Family Catholic’s longtime ‘church decorator’ steps down after 25 years

Bustling around from the sanctuary into the gathering space, Cindy Easton's last day as the "church decorator" was a memorable one. For the past 25 years, Easton has been decorating Holy Family Catholic Church for various holiday seasons, and she...

Cindy Easton watches volunteers decorate during an interview at Holy Family Catholic Church on Monday evening in Mitchell. After 25 years, Easton is retiring from being the decorator for the church. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)
Cindy Easton watches volunteers decorate during an interview at Holy Family Catholic Church on Monday evening in Mitchell. After 25 years, Easton is retiring from being the decorator for the church. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

Bustling around from the sanctuary into the gathering space, Cindy Easton's last day as the "church decorator" was a memorable one.

For the past 25 years, Easton has been decorating Holy Family Catholic Church for various holiday seasons, and she decided that Monday night would be her last.

The 58-year-old leads the charge for the church in decorating and has gotten used to hearing the phrases "What do you need help with?" and "Where do you want me?" as she's spent years perfecting her skills coordinating and directing her hard-working volunteers.

Each Christmas, several Holy Family church members volunteer to decorate the large space, which takes approximately five hours, Easton said. And while she's used to having approximately 15-20 volunteers each year, Monday night brought a larger group than she expected.

"This is a bittersweet night for me," Easton said, looking around at the 20-plus people working to hang lights and fluff trees. "A lot of people have shown up that I haven't seen forever. Some came just because they knew this was my last night. It's just a nice night."

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And after 25 years of decorating, Easton decided she's had enough. She said it's time for someone else to takeover to bring something fresh and new to the Holy Family Catholic Church.

Easton first got involved with church decorating decades ago. Knowing she could sew, Easton said the priest at the time asked if she could sew a banner to use as decoration.

It just blossomed from there.

"I've spent a lot of time hugging," Easton said about her final night decorating. "It's like a family and this is what makes Christmas for me. So, I don't know how next year's going to feel when I'm not a part of all of this. It's going to be hard."

As a mother of three with a full-time job, Easton was still able to find the time to decorate the church.

Easton would bring in her husband Rick - who still helps every year - and her children along to decorate the church. When the church had live trees, Easton would have her boys crawl underneath to water them. And her husband helped too, doing anything Easton asked. She dubbed him the electrician, builder and engineer behind her decorating projects.

Holy Family Catholic Church has three floors, and it's decorated from top to bottom, Easton said. Walking into the gathering space on the south end of the church sits a nearly life-sized nativity set. Trees, lined with lights and filled with ornaments, stand tall throughout the building.

But what Easton describes as one of the most beautiful scenes in the church are the 80 red and white poinsettias brought in to surround the nativity scene and fill the halls and sanctuary.

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Easton said she doesn't tell people what to do, but rather points them in a direction, allowing them to add their own flavor to the decorating - especially on the Christmas trees.

"The trees never look the same, but it's always beautiful," Easton said. "It's got that personal touch. I always like to think Holy Family is a church of tradition and so, we have basically the same group of people and the same tradition. They know we're going to loop the balcony and they're up there looping it right now."

'She has a big heart'

Easton is still a nurse today, and has no plans on quitting anytime soon. She just hopes there's somebody willing to take over as the Holy Family Catholic's "church decorator."

"Somebody will hear the call," Easton said.

It's not always an easy task to decorate the church, especially when initially coming up with an idea on what exactly the large space will look like.

But that never worried Easton.

"A lot of times I would walk through those doors and I would have no idea how we're going to decorate," Easton said. "But it gets done."

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Deb Pollreisz has worked alongside Easton's for the past eight years decorating the church, and she's sad to see her go.

"I'm kind of concerned what it might look like when she's not here," Pollreisz said. " ... I'm hoping to volunteer someplace else with her. That's my goal. I want to still continue with her doing something."

Pollreisz said when Easton gets a vision in her head, they all just go for it. But it's not just Easton's decorating skills that brings everyone together.

Janet Fritzemeier, who has been involved with the annual decorating for at least five years, said Easton is fun to work with.

"She's always so organized and everybody wants to come help when she's involved," Fritzemeier said. "She has a big heart."

Each year for the annual decorating night, Easton also brings a "whole feast" filled with holiday treats, Fritzemeier said, which takes her hours to prepare. And with Easton's husband also ready to help at any minute, Fritzemeier said they make "a good team."

"They're going to be missed greatly by everybody here whether they realize it or not," Fritzemeier said.

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