Nov. 12 2018 04:22 PM

She’s found a unique way to raise money for local charities.

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A Sanibel, Florida landscape company owner is getting a jump on the holiday season, asking people to trim a tree with tags signifying they’ve made a donation to local nonprofit groups, according to a story in the Fort Myers News-Press.

Lisa Walsh, owner of R.S. Walsh Landscaping and In The Garden has planted what she’s calling a “spirit tree,” actually an olive tree. Anyone who stops by In The Garden can buy a tree tag for $5, can write well-wishes or blessings on the tag and attach it to the tree. Walsh will then match all the donations.

“We had some live trees we used for our son’s wedding,” Walsh says. “When we looked at the meaning, it meant love and charity.”

Captains for Clean Water received a donation recently. In November, the nonprofit to benefit will be Community Housing and Resources, which partners with the City of Sanibel to provide affordable housing for families and individuals who work full-time on Sanibel or are retired or disabled long-time residents of Sanibel.

Community Housing and Resources can use the money. It relies on fundraising for 25 percent of its operating budget, or about $300,000.

“We’re so thankful, what a great thing to do,” says Melissa Rice, executive director of Community Housing and Resources. “We’ll be celebrating our 40th year in August. The average rent here is $2,500 and average homes go for $750,000; the average rent through CHR is $700 a month.”

And the donation solicitation won’t end after other holiday trees have been stripped of their ornaments and taken down. Other nonprofit groups will be future benefactors from December through April.

Because of Florida’s humid conditions, Walsh isn’t sure if her spirit tree will bear literal fruit. But it’s bearing another kind of fruit in the form of cash gifts to needy nonprofits along with messages of goodwill.

“The messages are what I really like,” Walsh says.