Originally published Nov. 15, 2012
Christmas trees are one of the staples of the holiday season, and in Huntington, the same could be said for the Huntington Lions Club's annual Christmas tree sale.
The sale, entering its 40th year, was started by Huntington Lions Club members Marland Sell and Gene Hartle.
"Well, (the Lions Club) used to sell Christmas trees a long time ago and then they quit," says Sell. "And then in '72, Gene Hartle and I started it back up."
At the time, Christmas trees were available for purchase only at grocery stores and through the Jaycees.
The first trees the Lions Club procured were from Culver and Rochester. The sale has continued to evolve since.
The Lions Club, for example, was the first to offer stands with its trees, the men say.
Sell lightheartedly dubbed the stands "marriage-savers" as they simplified for customers the process of setting up trees once they got home.
The club has offered the Fraser fir, one of the most popular varieties of Christmas tree, for the last 20 years.
In the last decade, the club began selling fruits like oranges and grapefruit.
"People will come and just buy fruit rather than a tree," says Sell's wife, Mary.
Sell retired from running the sale five years ago. Dick Wymer has led it since, with Sell continuing to collect the revenue the sale generates in his capacity as the Lions Club treasurer.
One aspect of the sale that hasn't changed is that the money it makes continues to go back into the community.
The Lions Club has purchased eyeglasses for members of the community, donated money to Huntington North High School for projects and awarded scholarships, all with proceeds from the sale, say Sell and Wymer.
The purpose of the project, says Wymer, is to help young people "realize that part of their responsibility, as a citizen, is to go ahead and to give back to the community.
"We do this by example and that's a lot of what you have with different organizations, you set the example."
The trees for this year's sale will arrive at the Lions Club's Scout cabin on Saturday, Nov. 17. Boy Scouts will be on hand to help unload the trees and get them set up for the sale, which will begin that same day.
The fact that the sale has become a staple of the holiday season for members of the community isn't lost on Wymer.
"There's one family that comes in and they usually come in that first Saturday and I think they have about three or four vehicles and they buy three or four trees," he says.
"They do this every single year. And they said they've done this for years. It's just the parents and then the children and then their grandchildren."
Complete caption: Huntington Lions Club member Herb Mills (left) helps Lagro residents Justin Cole and Sara Wallace pick out the perfect Christmas tree during the club’s 2010 sale in Huntington. The Lions Club is celebrating its 40th year of Christmas tree sales, an effort that is both a community service and a philanthropic project.