2017-12-01 / Front Page

Oh Christmas tree

Rotary tree sale commences for 54th year
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


The Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth has been setting up shop in the corner of Mill Creek Park in South Portland and offering thousands of Christmas trees for sale since 1963. The money raised from the sale goes to projects in the two communities, scholarship for local students and Rotary efforts. (Michael Kelley photo) The Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth has been setting up shop in the corner of Mill Creek Park in South Portland and offering thousands of Christmas trees for sale since 1963. The money raised from the sale goes to projects in the two communities, scholarship for local students and Rotary efforts. (Michael Kelley photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – While the leftovers were still uneaten in their refrigerators and shoppers battled for Black Friday deals, members of the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth turned their focus from Thanksgiving to Christmas last Friday as they launched their annual Christmas tree sale.

The group, which includes 60 individuals from South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, has been selling Christmas trees in a corner of Mill Creek Park since 1963.

William York, who has been part of the club for more than 40 years, said the sale started with 200 trees and for the last two decades 2,000 trees have been offered for sale. For the last 10 years, the crop of trees has come from a Rotarian in Bangor. Aside from trees, the Rotarians also sell decorated and undecorated wreaths.


Mike Brackett and Tara Hartman, and their puppy Piper search for the perfect Christmas tree last Friday. Brackett said it has become a tradition to come to the Rotary Club of South Portland- Cape Elizabeth every year the day after Thanksgiving to get his tree. (Michael Kelley photo) Mike Brackett and Tara Hartman, and their puppy Piper search for the perfect Christmas tree last Friday. Brackett said it has become a tradition to come to the Rotary Club of South Portland- Cape Elizabeth every year the day after Thanksgiving to get his tree. (Michael Kelley photo) The sale, York said, serves as one of the Rotary group’s three major annual fundraisers, along with Winterfest, which typically takes place in Mill Creek Park in February and an annual theater night at Portland Players in September.

The tree sale, he said, raises approximately $60,000, which is redistributed to the community.

“All the money goes back to the communities. When you buy your tree here, you aren’t just getting something nice for the family, for our home, you are also helping out other people in the community,” said Michael McGovern, a Rotary member since 1986.

Over the years using money from the tree sales and other fundraisers, the group has funded projects in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, the restoration and maintenance of Bug Light, supported the South Portland Food Cupboard, youth literacy programs, scholarships for South Portland High School, Cape Elizabeth High School and Southern Maine Community College students and provided financial contributions to eradicate polio and collect crutches and mobility devices to be sent to Africa. The group also provides funding for the holiday lights in Mill Creek Park and several years ago built a skating shelter for the park.

“When we started this our goal was to light up the entire Mill Creek Park and we have more than accomplished that,” York said

York said many customers come back year after year and some “have been coming here for more than 20 years, ever since they were children.”

The Rotarians’ tree lot is the go-to place for a Christmas tree for Anthony Rodney, who lived on Elm Street in South Portland for 10 years before moving to Portland four years ago.

“I’ve always come here. It’s for a good cause. It is sort of become a tradition,” he said as he looked at trees Nov. 24, the first day of the sale.

Buying a Christmas tree from the Rotary group has also become tradition for Mike Brackett and Tara Hartman who also stopped by the lot with their dog Piper Nov. 24 to find a tree.

Brackett, who lives in Falmouth, has been purchasing trees there for the last three or four years because the prices are good and it supports a local charity.

“I always try to come here the day after Thanksgiving,” he said.

York said they hope of the sell out about a week before Christmas.

“We are usually sold out by then. We hardly ever have to have them chipped,” York said.

York said the Rotary group couldn’t undertake an effort of this size all by itself. Inmates from the Cumberland County Correctional Facility, students from Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and Waynflete high schools and families also donate their time.

The Christmas tree lot is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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