Some holiday traditions are hard to break. This is especially true with the Knights of Columbus Council 1018 of St. Benedict Catholic Church in Shawnee who have been selling Christmas trees for many years.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic men’s organization committed to assist the needy in the community and to support the various programs of evangelization, Catholic education, protection of human life and religious vocation at the local, state and national levels. Founded in 1882 by the Reverend Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, CT, the Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest lay organization in the Catholic Church, with a membership exceeding 1.7 million and more than 13,000 local chapters throughout the United States and other parts of the world.
Despite its international affiliation, the Knights of Columbus is a grassroots organization. Each local council commissioned to develop programs they believe will serve the needs of their communities.
Christmas trees have been continuously sold at the church’s property at 632 N. Kickapoo for many years. The history of the tree sales at St Benedict has become obscure over the years. There are Knights who remember being part of the sales team back in the 60’s and others who insist the records go back more than 70 years. The Knights’ relationship with the same tree farm in Cadillac, MI is documented to have been established over forty years ago.
Even though the exact number of years remains a topic of discussion, one thing is above debate: the tradition continues this year at St. Benedict Church.
Each year the Christmas trees arrive from the tree farm in Michigan on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving Day. With the help of the Knights of Columbus members they are unloaded, sorted and arranged for display on the southwest corner of Kickapoo and Dewey streets. The trees are for sale to all.
The varieties available this year include the ever popular Blue Spruce and Scotch Pine. Included this year are the beautiful Fraser, Balsam and Michigan Douglas Fir. The favorite each year is a selection of Black Hills Spruce. The trees are in the 7’ to 8’ range with a few 10’ to 12’ available on site. The prices range from $40 to $70 depending on height and species. The 12’ trees are marginally higher priced. The Knights offer free tree stands to the first 100 customers each year. 24” Michigan Douglas Fir decorated wreathes are also available for $25.
The sale of Christmas trees each year is the single largest revenue-raising project for the organization every year. The Knights volunteer over 300 man hours to this project alone each year.
All the profits from the tree sales go towards helping needy in the community regardless of religious affinity and to fund the various programs the Knights of Columbus support. Locally, the Knights of Columbus annually support the Special Olympics. They provide scholarships to Catholic students pursuing post secondary education and training. A favorite of the local council is the support of the Center Of Family Love in Okarche, an assisted living and training institution for adults with intellectual disabilities.
The tree lot is manned by volunteers every day from noon to 6 p.m. by appointment. The sales effort will continue through December 18th or until the inventory is depleted.
Despite the fact that few seem to know when the tradition of selling trees by the Knights of Columbus began, the members of Council 1018 are dedicated to ensuring this year will be another successful effort. They invite everyone in the community to visit their tree lot and help with the many worthy causes supported by the Knights of Columbus.