Rotary starts new town Christmas tradition

Showing off the Rotary Club’s new Christmas Tree sales lot in Blythewood are, from left: club secretary Jimmy Martin, member Erica Page, president Mark Wickham and member David Thames. | Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – When the man who sells Christmas trees every year on the vacant lot at the corner of Blythewood Road and the Food Lion shopping center mentioned to Blythewood Pharmacy owner David Thames last year that he was thinking about selling his Christmas tree business, Thames, a longtime member of the Blythewood Rotary Club, had an epiphany.

“I thought this might be a good opportunity for the Rotary Club,” Thames said.

His fellow Rotarians agreed and in September the Club purchased the tree business’s tent and all the equipment to begin a new Christmas tradition for Blythewood – a hometown Christmas tree lot run by an all-volunteer staff with 100 percent of the proceeds going back into the community.

The lot is owned by Larry Sharpe of Blythewood Oil, also a member of the Blythewood Rotary Club, who is going to let the club use the lot for a minimum fee to cover maintenance and utility costs for their use of the lot.

“We’re excited about this, and while the task seemed daunting at first – to set all this up – we had about 12 club members come out for a work day,” club secretary and Coldwell Banker realtor Jimmy Martin said. “The previous owner came out to give us some direction, and he was amazed at the power of Rotary. We had everything – the tent, tree racks and lighting – set up in about five hours. The former owner said it usually takes his crew two days to set everything up. We had a lot of enthusiasm out there.”

The lot will open Wednesday, Nov. 25 – the day before Thanksgiving – and club member Mark Wickham said he expects to be sold out of trees by Dec. 6.  Hours are 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., seven days a week.

“We’ll be selling 5-foot – 12-foot Frazier Firs, three sizes of wreaths and 25-foot fresh Frazier Fir garlands,” Thames said.

Wickham, sales manager at Jim Hudson Lexus, is in charge of scheduling the tree lot workers. He said the entire operation will be run by volunteers, including students from the Blythewood, Westwood and Ridge View high schools who will be able to count their volunteer hours as community hours.

“All the proceeds will go back into the community,” Thames said. “Our club’s main charity is to provide college scholarships for students graduating from the three local high schools, but there will be other community uses for it as well. One thing we continue to support is the legacy of the late Chef William Turner who oversaw the culinary arts program at Blythewood High School. We send a Blythewood High School culinary arts student to Australia every summer as part of a student exchange program Chef Turner participated in with the Queensland College of Wine and Tourism organization. All the proceeds from the tree sales will go back into the community one way or another,” Thames said.

“We’re looking forward to fostering this new Christmas tradition for Blythewood, having families come out to pick out their trees, warm up around the fire pit and enjoy drinking hot chocolate served by our club member Erika Page,” Wickham said.

“This first year, we’ll be selling trees, wreaths and garland and pouring hot chocolate, but we expect to expand each year to maybe show Christmas movies out here on the lot and do other things,” Martin said. “We’re excited about Blythewood having its own Christmas tree lot with really great trees. We hope everyone will stop by and support us.”

The 45-member club meets from 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. on Thurdays at the Columbia Country Club located at  135 Columbia Club Drive West in the LongCreek Plantation neighborhood.

Anyone in the community can volunteer at the lot by signing up at:  https://treelot.youcanbook.me/

When you click the link it will bring you to the first week schedule page. Click the side arrow for the second week. Choose one time slot at a time. Enter your name, email, and cell number, then confirm. You will need to go back to the schedule page to choose additional time slots. Shifts are three hours beginning at the time displayed. Volunteers will receive email and text notifications for confirmation and reminders as it gets closer to your shift.