As volunteers measured up the massive tree that Buford resident Mike Poulter and his family were buying at the Neighborhood Church on Saturday, they found themselves in a quandary.

No one was sure if the tree — which was measured at about 11 to 12 feet in height and wide near the base — was too big to fit through the baler used to wrap up trees so they could be transported to customer’s homes.

“Come on, let’s try to bale it,” tree lot co-site director Sam Bolt finally said, wearily, as he corralled three volunteers to help him.

With a lot of effort by multiple volunteers working as a team, the tree made it through the baler, but just barely.

They had to stop at one point because one of the volunteers was worried about her arm getting stuck in the tree. Once the tree, which initially didn’t want to budge much, finally gave way, the sudden ease of getting it through caused another volunteer to take a tumble.

“Hey, that’s one of the biggest trees we’ve ever put through there,” Bolt said afterwards.

That was just one of the many scenes that took place as the church’s annual Christmas tree sale fundraiser for local nonprofit groups began over the weekend. The Buy A Tree, Change a Life tree sales raise money for Home of Hope, Streetgrace, Obria Medical Clinics and 12 Basket Food Ministries.

There were a decent number of trees sold on the first day of sales on Saturday, but lot co-site director Craig Cothern said the big sale days will be coming this weekend.

“Black Friday last year was a our biggest day ever,” Cothern said. “We sold 130 trees in one day and then the very next day, we sold another 93.

“That weekend is traditionally our blowout weekend.”

Last year, the church sold more than 200 trees just on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday alone.

Poulter’s family has been getting its Christmas trees from the church for the last five years. For them, the decision avoid the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday rush by coming by on the opening day of sales came down to one simple reason.

“We want to get the tree we want,” Poulter said. “It just makes sense.”

The church increased the number of trees it has to sell this year after selling 501 trees in eight days in 2020. About 556 trees arrived at the lot this past Saturday, and the church plans to sell around 700 trees in all this year.

The organizers goal is to raise $65,000 for charity this year, and more than $31,000 was raised from corporate sponsorships that help cover the cost of buying the trees.

One of those corporate sponsors, Tylor Stanley from Grubby Guppies, came by on the opening day to buy a tree for his family and one for the family of one of his employees.

Stanley said he has offered to buy trees for all of employees every year, but this was the first year one of them took him up on the offer. He said his family is eager to support the tree sales because of where the proceeds go.

“We’re members of the church and the biggest thing for me is that 100% of the proceeds are going to children’s charities,” Stanley said. “We didn’t have a kid at the time, but I’ve always had a big heart for kids so It just kind of hit me right in the heart.”

That’s a sentiment that Gabe McDaniel, 15, can understand. McDaniel has been volunteering at the lot every year since he was 10. He said the tree lot is worthy effort to get involved in because of who it benefits.

“It goes to a great cause,” he said.

The lot will be open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. on most days, but those hours will be extended to 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. The lot is located at Neighborhood Church, which is located at 2026 Braselton Highway in Buford.

The tree prices range from $45 for the smallest trees to $270 for the largest trees.

In addition to the trees, the church is also selling wood burned keychains and desktop decorations, as well as wreaths, bows, Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Santa Claus decorations at the lot. Anyone who is not looking to buy a tree, but wants to support the cause can also make a monetary donation at batcalbridge.square.site.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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