Hundreds of residents gathered to celebrate at the Southern Highlands annual Winter Festival and Tree Lighting, hosted by the Southern Highlands Community Association on Tuesday, November 28, at the Southern Highlands Corporate Center.

An annual tradition for more than a decade, the festival marks the official start of the holiday season and each year serves to benefit Operation Warm Heart, a private nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to local airmen and their families of the Nellis and Creech military community. In the spirit of the season, Southern Highlands residents made donations of toys and funds at the event, and with a generous matching donation from Olympia Companies, raised a total of $2,229.26 to help families in need.

Since 2007, the Southern Highlands Charitable Foundation and community residents have together raised nearly $180,000 for Operation Warm Heart through various efforts and events held throughout the year, including the Winter Festival and Tree Lighting.

In addition to the ceremonial lighting of the Southern Highlands community tree, the evening’s festivities featured beloved holiday traditions such as cookies, hot cocoa, caroling by the Desert Oasis Choir and photos with Santa.