Last year’s Christmas season was a sad one for Altrusa of the Central Coast.

The service club, which traditionally conducts a Christmas tree raffle at the Santa Maria Town Center, had to cancel its annual major fundraiser because of the pandemic.

This year, however, with the pandemic protocol lightened, Altrusa members are shouting at the top of their lungs, “We’re back!”

Indeed, they are. And they are back in style. Thirty-two beautiful, imaginative and artistically decorated trees are ready and waiting for $1 raffle tickets to be purchased and deposited in buckets at their base. The tree decorations and presentations are simply gorgeous. And the unwrapped gifts (valued at between $500 and $1,000-plus) accompanying the trees are dazzling in their variety and irresistibility.

The tree raffle will be open to the public from Nov. 26 (the day after Thanksgiving) until Dec. 11. Winning raffle tickets will be drawn on Dec. 12. The trees are located on the first floor of the Town Center, close to the movie theater and a few doors down from the Red Robin restaurant.

On Thursday, Nov. 19, Altrusa of the Central Coast and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce co-hosted a sponsor preview party. The event served as the Chamber’s regular monthly mixer, the most recent of which have been held on Zoom.

The non-Zoom mixer was a delight for members and guests, who enjoyed a complimentary plate of soft pork tacos, refried beans and rice catered by Carniceria El Matador. Guests had their choice of soft drinks or a variety of very nice wines donated by Allan and Teri Hansen. Santa dropped in with a bag of candy canes. Chamber member Ed Carcarey of Emerald Wave Media announced winners of raffle gifts, a Chamber mixer ritual.

Molly Schiff, director of member and community engagement for the Chamber of Commerce, stopped by to check the event, while the Chamber’s uber Ambassador-for-Life Julie Colegrove checked in visitors.

“Everybody has been anticipating this day,” said Letitia Kossuth, a director of the Altrusa club. “And everybody has been so generous.”

The gifts donated by sponsors include all kinds of toys and games for children and necessities for infants and babies, as well as television sets, checks for $1,000, gift cards, barbecue grills, trips to spas and San Francisco, and recliners. Sounds like something for everyone, doesn’t it?

But the stars of this show are the exquisite trees. “They are the best-looking trees in years,” observed guest Karen Cordary.

The proceeds of the tree raffle will be funneled to community nonprofits.