“Every year, our tree sales person says, ‘there’s a tree shortage coming’. And I always kind of just never believed him,” Del Voss said. “And this year, he just couldn’t get trees for us.”
Voss is a parent volunteer with Cub Scout Pack 230 and Boy Scout Troop 500. Ever since his son became a cub scout more than ten years ago, he’s devoted to a week annually to organizing the holiday tree sale.
The sale, happening this weekend (Fri Dec. 3 to Sun Dec. 5) at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation (212 E. Capitol St. NE) funds a scholarship ensuring access to scouting for all children.
Along with tents and other camping equipment, funds are used to support scouts whose parents may not have the money to send their scouts to camp and high adventure trips that the troop go on. “We always want to make sure that if there are kids in the organization that can’t afford it, they are able to participate,” Voss said.
Funds raised from the annual holiday tree sale open all aspects of scouting to every one of the nearly 100 active scouts in the two troops.
But this year, it almost didn’t take place.
A combination of issues made it difficult for many suppliers to get holiday treees this year. There was the 2012 drought, augmented by less rain than usual over the last two years. Pile pandemic-related supply chain and labor shortages onto that, and its easy to see why trees are hard to get.
“We were faced with cancelling the tree sale –and we didn’t want to do that, because it’s been a tradition for some families to buy their trees from the sale,” Voss said.
An Early Morning Drive
So one day shortly before Thanksgiving, Voss and his friend Bryan Dierlam got up at 3:15 in the morning and drove to a little spot just north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to participate in their first-ever tree auction.
The experience was overwhelming, Voss said.
They stood in a pack of about 200 people, all of whom crowded in around the auctioneer, blocking the view of the trees. “It was kind of crazy, and it went really fast,” Voss said. “You had to make your decisions about what you were going to pay, just split-second.”
But Voss made an informed decision. Before he went, he reached out to Jesse Dunham, of Eastern Market tree vendor Dunham Farms, for advice. “I told him I was going to the auction, and he said, ‘well that’s where I’m going,” Voss recalled.
Meeting Voss on-site at the auction, Dunham gave advice about which trees Voss should and shouldn’t bid on and for how much. “He has alot of experience,” Voss said. ‘He was very kind, and I’d like to recognize him for helping us, because we compete with him.”
Even with this expert advice, taking on the sale was a bit of a risk, Voss acknowledges. He knew the trees would cost more, but going into the auction, he wasn’t even sure how much more.
As a result, the trees at this weekend’s fundraiser have to be priced a bit higher than in previous years. However, every one is quality, Voss said: with Dunham’s help, all the trees at the scouts sale are “premium – No. 1” trees.
At that auction, Voss bought more than 150 trees, from 3 to 4 foot table-top trees up to towering 10 to 11 foot trees. That’s taller than usually available at the sale –Voss calls them “three-person” trees, because that’s how many scouts are needed to carry one –but they’re ideally suited to businesses or for the high ceilings of the East Capitol Street living rooms. They’re also selling “gorgeous” decorated wreathes, Voss adds.
Coat Drive and Honey Sale
You can also pick up local honey at the sale from Voss,(who is well-known as the Capitol Hill Beekeeper) and his fellow minder-of-beeswax Jan Day, from Second Story Honey. Both sell honey from multiple different DC neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park, Stanton Park, Congressional Cemetery, Shaw and Deanwood. The honey has a distinctive flavor representative of the neighborhood flowers and trees on which the bees dined.
As part of the sale, the scouts are also holding a winter coat drive. Drop off gently used winter coats for kids and adults at the sale. The scouts will have them dry cleaned before they are given to a local organization for distribution throughout the community. Donations towards cleaning are also welcome.
“We really like to do this for the community,” Voss said. “People really like buying their trees from a scout organization, or a school. It’s a way for us to be present in the community.”
Park in the Supreme Court lot (A Street between 2nd & 3rd) while you shop, then pull up to load your tree. The scouts will help you!
Support the Boys Scouts with your tree or wreath purchase this weekend. Sale hours are Fri Dec. 3: 5 to 7 p.m.; Sat Dec. 4: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and, Sun Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. until they are gone.