The San Juan Mountain Association raised a record amount of money this year selling Christmas trees, collecting about $30,000 in a month, volunteers say.
More than 100 people volunteered with the nonprofit to help sell the trees to support its mission: Educating people about the responsible use of public lands. The nonprofit had 735 trees to sell, and it sold most of them, said Will Rietveld, a volunteer with the organization.
A lot of the money raised in the past month will help pay for conservation programs in elementary schools, where children learn about the importance of protecting and preserving public lands, Rietveld said.
“The majority of people live in Durango because it’s surrounded by public lands,” he said. “We have a fundamental role in the use of public lands.”
Of the 735 trees, 185 were cut locally. That includes 150 white firs and 35 Engelmann spruce cut in the San Juan Mountains. The other 550 trees – balsam firs – were shipped to Durango from Wisconsin.
The local trees helped with fundraising efforts – SJMA didn’t have to pay for them. The Forest Service provided permits, and volunteers went to cut them down. Other supporters include the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Target Rental, Alpine Bank, Southwest Ag, Backcountry Experience and Albertsons.
The trees sold for anywhere between $27 and $119, depending on their size, said Mike Taylor, another volunteer. On a busy weekend, the nonprofit would sell anywhere between 100 and 150 trees.
“Several weekends after Thanksgiving, it was continually busy,” he said.
SJMA has been selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser for five years, and each year has been more successful than the last. This year, the organization made about $30,000; the year before it was about $25,000. In 2016, it raised about $15,000, and in 2015, it raised about $12,000, Rietveld said.
The “slow-moving fundraiser,” as Rietveld calls it, is also an opportunity for volunteers with SJMA to get to know each other and the community, said SJMA board member Frank Viehmann.
“We were very grateful for the community’s support,” he said. “It’s a fun way for our volunteers and members to volunteer in the community.”