Jeff Baker helps unwrap and tag trees for Richmond Family YMCA’s annual sale at Glen Miller Park. Supplied

Richmond Family YMCA tradition celebrates 75th year

Richmond Family YMCA’s Christmas tree lot has continued 75 years, through wars, economic challenges and other circumstances.

But there’s a first time for something new to go wrong. Before opening last Friday, unexpected challenges had to be overcome.

The first issue: The expected Nov. 19 arrival of 360 trees from Canada was delayed for about 24 hours in getting through customs. It took an extra day to resolve a trucking paperwork snag and undergo a full truck inspection.

Then, the next day, when the trees were about 3 miles from the tree lot in Richmond’s Glen Miller Park, the semi delivering them broke down at the Petro Travel Stop at the Indiana/Ohio border.

About 30 volunteers, ranging from teens in RHS letter jackets to retirees, had been waiting at the park to help. Skies became dark and those plans were called off.

Michael Kruse of Boston, Indiana, saw YMCA Executive Director Misty Hollis’ post about the trucking predicament on social media. Kruse pulled the trailer of trees to the park’s golf course that night while the driver’s cab was being fixed.

Then, two YMCA board members, Dale Brooks, owner of DB Plumbing, and Brett Roland, who owns Whitewater Construction, gathered their employees early the next morning. They unloaded the trees in an hour. Another group of volunteers arrived that afternoon to cut open the trees’ wrappings and organize and tag them.

In addition to those local businesses suddenly helping with trees this year, additional annual sources of support include tree sale sponsor Harrington-Hoch Insurance, and Camping World, which provides a trailer where volunteers can warm up during their work shifts. Five to six volunteers divide the shifts every day.

DB Plumbing and Whitewater Construction staffs teamed to unload trees. From left, Jesse Crownover, Austin Mills, Doug Hardin, Trey Fields, Colin Morgan, Chad Neeley, David Bush, Lee Schuerman, TJ Bane, Jewel Taylor, Brett Roland and Y board member Tom Carrico. Supplied

Sales are brisk: The tree lot closed last year after only two weeks. Hollis would like to wrap up sales that quickly again this year. In 2020, the lot was open three weeks.

The sale began 75 years ago on the front porch of a local doctor’s house, and continued growing.

Hollis says much of that success has to do with the organization’s dedicated volunteers, who drive the sale.

“People know the money goes directly to youth sports and childcare scholarships,” Hollis said.

The tree lot offers everything from “Charlie Brown” trees starting at $15 to its most expensive 12-foot tree for $130. Hollis said the average tree is usually $50 to $60.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.