PANAMA CITY — Depending on the version of “O Christmas Tree” you prefer, there’s a lesson in the green: that hope and love will be the way to joy and peace.
For the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bay County, that same lesson and the way to joy and peace for its young members is supported in large part by the sale of Christmas Trees. Their hope rests on the public’s love of the live tannenbaum.
The Christmas trees started arriving Nov. 19 at the Club’s lots — one near the intersection of 23rd Street and Beck Avenue (State 390) in Panama City, and another at the intersection of State 79 and U.S. 98 in Panama City Beach. The lots officially opened on Black Friday and will remain open until all the trees are sold.
Trees sell for between $20 and $300, depending on size; 100 percent of the sales proceeds go to benefit the programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bay County, which is hurting because of the economy.
“We count on it selling out every year, especially in tough times like this,” said Paul Mosca, the club’s chief professional officer. “It’s probably never been needed more than it is this year. With the economy down the past four or five years, our reserve funds are depleted, and we’re living like the families we serve — predominantly middle income and lower income. We’re existing exactly the way they do, week-to-week right now.”
The annual sale started 23 years ago, the year before the Mosca, joined the team.
“We get all of our trees from Merlyn Farms in North Carolina. We buy direct from the grower,” Mosca said. “That guy’s been wonderful to us and offers great trees. We carry only the hardiest trees available for this area, a Fraser fir, which do the best in this area because of the heat.”
The lots usually raise $20,000 to $30,000 annually, one of the biggest single sources of income for the non-profit organization. That allows the club to continue offering a low cost alternative to typical after school programs at a cost of about $8 per week per child through the school year, Mosca said.
The clubs have competitive sports programs, tutoring and more activities. About 60 percent of the children served qualify for scholarships, and 40 percent pay some portion of the full fee. Last year, club members spent more than 450,000 hours at the clubs, Mosca said.
He added that his Christmas wish is simple: monetary support.
“We rely on the United Way, which is the best option for people to easily give through payroll deductions,” he said. “But we also need people who will give in small ways, like sponsor a basketball team. The working man that gives us a little bit every single year — those seem to add up to where we need to be — and it’s a gift that keeps on giving for 3,000 kids that keep on coming every day.”
Christmas Tree Lots
- What: 23rd annual fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bay County
- Where: By Hancock Bank near the corner of Beck Avenue and 23rd Street in Panama City; and at the intersection of State 79 and U.S. 98 in Panama City Beach
- Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Panama City; noon to 8 p.m. in Panama City Beach
- Details: 763-2076
CUT (AND CARE FOR) YOUR OWN
Continuing, the song exclaims about the lovely branches of the Christmas tree, how its “beauty green will always grow, through summer sun and winter snow.” And though we seldom have any of the latter in this area, the former does make for some healthy trees.
To find and cut your own tree in Bay County, visit the Jeffery Christmas Tree Farm at 2816 Kingswood Drive, about 4 miles west of Fountain off Silver Lake Road. (Phone: 769-6510.) Varieties of trees available include Leyland Cypress, Virginia Pine and Spruce Pine. The farm is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Other tree farms in the Panhandle include:
- Strickland-Davis Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs (951-1005).
- Maphis Tree Farm and Nursery in Chipley (638-8243), is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Cost for trees is $6 per foot up to 8 feet, then $8 per foot for 8 feet or taller.
In general, artificial trees are less messy and easier to put up than real trees, according to the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, but they also end up in landfills when they go out of style or become worn. Real cut trees can be recycled or used in compost piles.
Some people opt for a living Christmas tree (roots and all) that can be planted in the yard after the holidays. Species well-adapted for Florida include red cedar, Arizona cypress, sand pine and junipers, the Extension Service said, and fortunately, January is the best time to plant trees in Florida.
But whether you go with a rooted or cut tree, follow a few suggestions to pick (and preserve) the right one for your family:
- Know the size and height of the area where you want to put the tree.
- The stronger branches of pine and fir species can support heavier ornaments.
- When buying a cut tree, choose one that has a strong scent and looks fresh and green. Thump the trunk on the ground to shake off any loose needles. If the tree loses a lot of needles, you may want to choose a different one.
- Pine needles begin to fall off more frequently as the tree dries out. Put the tree into a sturdy tree stand, fill the base with water, and keep it full at all times.
- A cut stump allows the tree to absorb water more quickly, keeping the tree moist and delaying needle drop. Moist trees are also less likely to catch fire. Keep your tree away from heat sources that can dry it out.
- For easier cleanup, place a tree skirt or cloth around the tree to catch dropped needles.
- Never put lighted candles on your Christmas tree. The effect may be pretty, but the flames can easily set the tree on fire. Only use indoor electric lights on your tree. If a light string is damaged in any way, repair or replace it.
- To avoid a fire hazard, throw out your real tree when it becomes dry. Never burn tree branches or needles in a fireplace or woodburning stove.
According to the song, the Christmas tree is the most loved because it gives us delight in brightly shining Christmas light. You can commemorate the season’s favorite decoration at these public events:
The Ninth Annual Festival of Trees started Nov. 26 and runs through Saturday at Bay Banquet Hall, 5420 Hickory St. in Panama City. This year’s festival takes you back to the post-war 1940s when jazz, swing and big band music were popular with the “It’s a Wonderful Life” theme. Families and individuals alike can enjoy the sights and sounds of the season during special mini-events or during general admission.
All proceeds from the event help Bethel Village, the Panama City Rescue Mission’s home for recovering or homeless women and mothers. General admission tickets are available at the door. Details: Amanda Bawn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 481-1093.
Oaks by the Bay Park Christmas Tree Lighting will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday off Beck Avenue in St. Andrews.Join friends, family and neighbors for the hometown event. Special holiday greetings and music will be provided before the traditional flipping of the switch. Details: HistoricStAndrews.com, or call 785-1899 or 872-7208.