Annual tree lighting to unite county

By Maegan Rocio

Staff Writer

While Christmas is a time for celebration, is it also a time for remembrance.

The McLennan County Crime Victim Coalition will host the second annual lighting of The Tree of Angels to honor victims of violent crimes. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the Bellmead Civic Center. The general public is welcome to attend the event.

Melissa Beseda, the director of the Victim Services Unit at the Waco Police Department, said families who have been affected by a crime or who have lost loved ones to a crime will be specially invited to attend the tree lighting.

“The event is meant to honor the crime victims of McLennan county and their families,” she said. “What we do is we send out invitations to families of crime victims we’ve had in McLennan County.”

Beseda said the coalition asks the families to bring an angel ornament in honor of their loved one.

“We’ll name different kinds of crime, and whoever is honoring a victim of that crime, they’ll get up and place an ornament on the tree,” she said.

Beseda said the tree will be put on display in the entrance of the civic center during the month of December. She said the ornaments will be saved and labeled so the families of the crime victims can pick them up after the event.

The event will include musical selections and the lighting of three candles that represent hope, peace and healing.

Beseda said an agency head of each group that makes up the McLennan County Crime Victim Coalition will be present at the event, such as Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr., Waco Chief of Police Brent Stroman and others.

The event was created in 1991 in Austin by People Against Violent Crime and later 34 similar events were created throughout Texas.

The McLennan County Crime Coalition is made of victim service providers from the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, the McLennan County District Attorney’s office, the Waco Police Department, Bikers Against Child Abuse, the Bill Logue Juvenile Justice Center, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers the Texas Department of Public Safety and Family Abuse Center.