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Huntington Lions continue longstanding holiday tradition

No matter where one travels, the holidays are filled with tradition.

 Perhaps one of the more popular traditons here in Huntington County is the Huntington Lions Club’s annual Christmas tree sale.

 The trees, along with fruit items, are available for purchase at the Lion’s Club building, 1103 W. Park Drive.

 One recent day, three Lions Club members – Tom Trisler, Bill Hess and Richard Wymer – manned the facility, waiting for customers to come select their trees. All three, they said, have been doing this for at least 25 years.

 Trisler noted that over the years, he has built up a memory of stories he likes to share with others.

 For example, there was the time he helped a gentleman put a rather large tree into his van. He said he told the man he had a question, which apparently riled the individual.

 After it was loaded, he asked Trisler what he wanted to ask him.

 “I asked, ‘What about the kids?’” he said, noting the man had forgotten to put his five kids in the vehicle. Luckily, a neighbor happened to be at the sale lot and offered to take the children home.

 The lot is open seven days per week, but is especially busy on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Hess said.

 “Last Saturday we sold 50 trees in one day,” Wymer said. “Then some days during the week we may sell six or seven.”

 In addition to the trees, the Lions also sell oranges and grapefruit.

 The members also enjoy spreading the holiday spirit to the youngsters. There are hand-painted ornaments made from the tree stumps that they give to the kids.

 “Sometimes we take a branch and make a ‘Charlie Brown tree’ for the kids,” Wymer continued. “There have been a couple kids who have come back and ask ‘Can we get a Charlie Brown tree?’ We just cut off a stump, drill a hole in it and put a branch in it. But, it’s their own little tree. They enjoy that.”

 Each year, the club brings in a truckload of trees – Frasier Fir and Scotch Pine, to be specific -- and nearly all are gone well before Christmas.

 The club received 375 trees on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and by Dec. 1 had sold 200 of them.

 “There were people here to pick out trees while we were unloading,” Wymer said.

 The trees come from Badger Evergreen Nursery in Allerton, Mich.

 “We’ve ordered from them for years, and we’ve always got good quality trees,” Wymer added.

 The closer it gets to the holiday, the more people come in, the trio said. The group’s clientele isn’t just those who live in Huntington.

 “We have a family that comes in from Goshen, and they buy four or five trees every year,” Wymer said. “It’s a family event. They’ve been doing that for probably 15 years. Proceeds from the sale go for a variety of things.

 “Probably about 95 percent of the proceeds stay in the county, either for scholarships for the kids, Place of Grace or any number of other organizations here in the county,” Wymer said.

 Hess added that this year the Lions are helping the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department with its K9 program.

 The club also helps provide eyeglasses for the needy, and has boxes for eyeglass donations at various locations around the community. This year, it had 17 banana boxes filled with eyeglasses donated, Hess said.

 The tree lot is open from 1 to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

 Hess said one of the highlights of helping at the lot is to see the expressions on the children’s faces.

 “I can be down, and all at once I’m up just seeing these little ones,” he said. “They are our future.”

 The youngsters, even if they don’t know one another, start talking with one another, and pretty soon their parents are talking to each other as well, he continued.

 “These kids were showing us something that we should have been showing them,” Hess said.

 Helping at the lot also allows the workers to see friends they haven’t seen for some time. 
 “It’s really nice,” Hess said. “I see some family members I haven’t seen in a long time. I enjoy doing it. It gives me something to do.”