"Last summer I was wondering what I'd do for neighbor gifts. We live in a very blessed neighborhood, no one really needs a lot, so it's hard to come up with something meaningful."
Poulter remembered her sister doing a tree with a neighbor who had lost a child and the peace it had brought them.
"I was cleaning in my basement and just started to cry at the idea," Poulter continued. "I called Lorraine and we both started to cry."
"We cried together," said Gregory. "I loved the idea."
The three put out the call for donations and were overwhelmed with the response.
"Most people contributed monetarily," said Poulter. "But some have given in-kind gifts like babysitting while we take the tree to the festival and set it up, bringing brownies to the open house we're holding, and that kind of thing. We've tried to be very frugal with the funds, hoping to donate the money we have left to the hospital."
"The best part of Natalie and this tree is the response from the community. It's brought meaning to our lives, to the holiday. People have called me and asked me to do this again, because it feels so good."
Their elegant tree, titled "The Spirit of Christmas," is a wonder to explore and savor. Done in rich hues of burgundy, white and gold, there are accents of deep purple and silver to delight the senses.
The ladies wanted the tree to be a "treasure hunt of things to find" so they have tucked in grape vines and berry sprays, six-inch balls of shiny gold and red, large delicate filigreed balls, tiny pillows with messages of hope, a Victorian Santa Claus and even a billowing porcelain angel.
"It was the angel that started it all," said Gregory. "Robin brought it to me and asked if I'd like to use it for the tree. She (the angel) has such a sweet expression, it reminded me of Natalie. I knew it had to be part of the tree."
Surprisingly, the very name "Natalie" means "gift of Christmas" or "Christmas Child" as derived from the Italian phrase natale domini or "Christmas Day."
"We wanted an elegant tree," explained Poulter, "because they usually bring in the largest donations. We wanted to make the largest gift possible to give something back to the hospital for what they gave Lorraine in time with her baby."
The tree seems to explode with life, which suits Gregory just fine, because it is a tribute to precious life.
"Just because a child is not physically with you does not mean they haven't touched your life and changed it forever," said Gregory.
"Not having them here, that's difficult, but it's not the whole picture. I'm different because of her."
"We all are," added Poulter.
The Spirit of Christmas can be seen with other decorated trees and gifts for sale at the Festival of Trees, from Nov. 30 through Dec. 3 at the South Towne Mall, 9575 S. State from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tickets are $4.50 for adults and $2.50 for children. For details go to www.ihc.com/xp/ihc/primary/giv