Tree lot volunteer loves small-town atmosphere
Don Pierson of Lake Forest makes a final tag check on Christmas trees for sale at Artesian Park in Lake Buff. The sale ends Dec. 9. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media
HOMETOWN: Lake Forest
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “I like the idea of raising money for mission work.”
Updated: December 12, 2012 8:44AM
LAKE BLUFF — He admittedly loves Christmas, but that’s not why Don Pierson of Lake Forest has volunteered at the Grace United Methodist Church Mission Team tree lot in Lake Bluff for the past dozen years. He’s in it for the help the proceeds provide to fund mission work at his church. Pierson has been a member of Grace United for the past 32 years. Over the years, Pierson and the other volunteers have come to know the flood of regular customers who purchase a Balsam or Fraser fir at their lot. The last day to purchase a Christmas tree is Sunday, Dec. 9. The tree lot is located at Artesian Park, Sheridan Road and East Sheridan Place, in Lake Bluff.
He’s in it for the help the proceeds provide to fund mission work at his church. Pierson has been a member of Grace United for the past 32 years.
Over the years, Pierson and the other volunteers have come to know the flood of regular customers who purchase a Balsam or Fraser fir at their lot.
The last day to purchase a Christmas tree is Sunday, Dec. 9. The tree lot is located at Artesian Park, Sheridan Road and East Sheridan Place, in Lake Bluff.
Q. How many people volunteer at the tree lot and why?
A. We probably have, maybe, 15 to 20 regular workers and probably up to 40 who are occasional workers. We try to get as many people involved as we can. We set up the weekend in shifts. The lot is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. We’re only open for seven days: Three days after Thanksgiving and the two following weekends. The last day of the sale is Sunday, Dec. 9, unless we have a lot of trees left, which has never happened. We do it because we think it’s important. It’s always been a fund raiser for missions.
Q. How many trees were delivered and what kind?
A. We get 200 trees, usually a mix of Balsam and Fraser fir. But this year happened to be almost all Fraser, for some reason he just had a shortage of Balsam. The trees are from Wautoma, Wis.
Q. What is unique about your tree sale?
A. Some people wouldn’t have a tree if it wasn’t for us. We’ll deliver their tree to their house and set it up for them in a stand. They do the decorating themselves. There are a lot of elderly people and others who wouldn’t normally be able to set up a tree. In that way, the tree sale itself becomes sort of a mission project.
We also have something we call “tag a tree.” Since we’re not open during the week, any time someone wants to find a tree they can put a hold tag on it — the tags are in a little mailbox on the sign. We’ll deliver it on the weekend or they can come pick it up. More and more people are using that service.
Q. Do you have many repeat customers?
A. Most of our customers are repeats. More than half, I’d say. They recognize us, we recognize them. The delivery drivers like to put the addresses in a GPS, but often they don’t have to do that because we know right where we’re going. I think the community has embraced this sale and look forward to it. I think they enjoy being able to walk to a Christmas tree lot. We have people who come and take home their tree on a sled or a wagon. This really fits into the small-town atmosphere.
We had a funny story the other day. A woman tagged a tree and accidentally left her glove inside the tree. When we talked to her, she told us her daughter e-mailed her from Tokyo to remind her to get a tree at our lot.
Q. What do you like about this volunteer project?
A. It is hard work and the older you get the harder it gets, but we enjoy the camaraderie and the purpose of this. I like the idea of raising money for mission work. If there were an easier way, trust me, I think we would do it. If someone had a suggestion for a little lighter merchandise, I think we’d be happy to change.