The brighter the mission tree got at First Congregational UCC Church of Alexandria, the more meat the church was able to donate to area families.

The mission tree is a tradition at the church, said member Kathryn LeBrasseur. It's placed in the church in early December, and for every $25 donated, the tree gains another light.

The money goes to a specific mission, and this year the church chose to donate the funds to support the United Way Food Drop on Jan. 28. The tree became brightly lit in December, as over $2,000 was donated.

With discounts from Eldens Fresh Foods and Cub Foods, First Congregational then bought enough meat to place in 275 bags. Church members prepared the bags and helped distribute them.

"Conditions of the pandemic made receiving protein along with other items a truly valued and appreciated gift," LeBrasseur said. "For those who donated and those who packaged and worked the Food Drop it was truly a gift of love to be able to help others in our community."