Woodbridge Scouts’ annual Christmas tree fundraiser a success

A sign reads NEED A TREE? TAKE A TREE! by the remaining dozen Christmas trees that are part of a Xmas tree sale by Boy Scout Troop 63 on the grounds of the old Woodbridge firehouse.

A sign reads NEED A TREE? TAKE A TREE! by the remaining dozen Christmas trees that are part of a Xmas tree sale by Boy Scout Troop 63 on the grounds of the old Woodbridge firehouse.

Maybe it was the news reports about the looming national Christmas tree shortage, but procrastinators lost out if they planned to buy their tree from their local Boy Scouts at the old firehouse on Center Road.

Troop 63 sold out last Sunday and shut down its annual operation. A few straggler trees were propped up against the building free for the taking. A note left directions for a donation, if people chose.

“This year seems to be extra busy, and I don’t know why,” said Troop Leader Ted Pocwierz, who theorized the reported shortage prompted people to buy earlier. “We had one of the best years, as far as selling out.”

Last year, the Scouts and parents worked up until Christmas Eve to accommodate the real procrastinators.

It’s a small tree-selling operation — they had 320 balsam pine trees delivered the weekend after Thanksgiving — but a major fundraiser for the local troop, which has 18 members. They also have a loyal following, he said, having been selling trees, wreaths and decorations at the same location for 54 years.

“When they first started the troop up, they started the Christmas tree sale as one of their first fundraisers,” Pocwierz said. “We’ve had a few people who came with their newborns who said they’ve gotten them (here) when they were kids and now they are coming with their own. We have a lot of return customers.”

It helps that they deliver, he said. This year saw a first. Some Yale students wanted a tree but didn’t have a car.

So the Scouts took some pictures of trees and after a series of back-and-forth text messages, the students made their selection and the tree was en route.

“Maybe next year, we’ll even accept credit cards, Pocwierz joked. They don’t.

The trees this year came from Massachusetts and Canada. The Canadian trees were organically grown, with no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

The shortage only affected lots that get trees from giant production farms in places such as North Carolina, Maine and Oregon. The root of the problem goes back to the economic downturn of 2007-10.

“In 2007, we were at the beginning of our recession and tree sales were down, prices were down, farmers didn’t have the space in their fields to replant because they weren’t harvesting as many,” National Christmas Tree Association spokesman Doug Hundley told Hearst Newspapers last month.

Now, those trees from about 10 years ago are at the right age to sell, and there just aren’t enough to go around.

Longtime Woodbridge resident Charlie Whiting, who is 89 and still lives in town, was one of five founding fathers of Troop 63 and started the Christmas tree sale decades ago, first selling at the corner of Amity Road and Center Street before moving to the old firehouse at the center of town.

Decades ago, through a connection at the water company, scouts were allowed to cut pine trees on water company property to sell and used larger trees to build a log cabin on town property that has become a Boy Scout camp used by troops from throughout the area. From December to April, troops spend weekends doing winter camping.

“No lights. No running water. No telephone. Just a 30-by-30 log cabin with a well for water, wood burning stove and fire pit outside.”

Town resident Bob Hill came in and helped Whiting run the sale from 2006 to 2011. Before that, Whiting ran the operation on his own.

Not only is the sale the troop’s primary fundraiser, it also teaches valuable lessons to the scouts in salesmanship, merchandising, customer service, community service and “how to earn your own way and be proud of that,” Hill said.

Hill said Whiting retired from the troop this summer but hasn’t stayed completely retired.

Hill said he went down to the troop campground to check on the property after a group camped therefor the weekend “and, of course, Charlie was there.”

Troop 63, which has two Eagle Scouts and one more on the cusp, uses the proceeds to subsidize camping trips, the cost of badges and awards, and to help offset parental contributions for a weeklong summer camp.

Amity High School seniors Dean Pocwierz, 18, Ted’s son, and Andrew Burford, 17, both earned the rank of Eagle Scout in November. Daniel Feitchtner, 17, also an Amity senior, is scheduled to attain the rank in January.

The three joined Cub Scouts together.

For Pocwierz, selling out early has one distinct benefit: He got to be at home home with his family on Christmas Eve.