SUNNYSIDE — A summer Christmas project is still paying dividends nearly 50 years later for a local church.

Billie Hilton was teaching school in Sunnyside 45 years ago when she spent her summer off creating dozens of ornaments for the Christmas tree at Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

“They only had a dozen ornaments and that’s not very many for a big tree,” she said. “So I spent my summer making three or four dozen Christmas ornaments.”

She re-purposed styrofoam from old packaging and picked up a few beads and supplies from Haskin’s Dime store in Sunnyside.

Nearly half a century later, the church still decorates its fresh-cut tree with Hilton’s ornaments, as well as those created later by other members.

Hilton, 79, lives at Sun Terrace and still attends services at Our Saviour’s. She’ll be there tonight for the church’s Christmas Eve program. Her ornaments will be there, too, adorning the church’s tree.

“It’s funny, I don’t even think about them,” she said. “They’re where they’re supposed to be.”

Hilton may not think much about her hand-made ornaments, but they mean everything to church members like Cathy Mears.

Mears said the ornaments historically are called Christmons. “They’re all made depicting the symbols of Christianity… they're all of a spiritual nature,” Mears said.

She said the ornaments carry a message beyond Christmas.

“I’ll tell you what…they say we better realize how very blessed we are,” Mears said. “If your life is spiritual in nature, they bring those things more to bear.”

She said they remind her that the good will and good deeds at Christmas should be done year-round.

“We should have missions in life and missions for the church and follow through,” Mears said. “A lot of good things happen this time of year, but they should be ongoing.”

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