HAMPDEN - A vet tech in Hampden has come up with a festive way to spread some holiday cheer at work this season while also helping out area pet owners in need. For several years, Heather Burgess and her husband have participated in the Hands of Hope Christmas program, where the needs of less fortunate families in Maine are written on gift tags that hang from decorated Christmas trees at various businesses. Generous shoppers then select a tag, purchase the listed item and return it to the business so it can be distributed by Hands of Hope to needy families in time for Christmas. That same idea gave Burgess the motivation to create a tree of her own, a Paws of Hope Christmas tree.

"There's probably 50 tags on it. There's tags for cat or dog food, nail trims, rabies vaccines or sick exams," said Burgess, who works at the Hampden Veterinary Clinic. "But this is different than a Hands of Hope tree because our tags aren't linked to a certain family. If you pay for, say, a nail trim, it goes into a charity box we have and we hand it out throughout the year to who we see fit."

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