By Alex Lippa
---- — For more than 30 years, Steven Tomaselli has stopped at St. Marks Lodge 44 Free and Accepted Masons on East Broadway to pick up a holiday tree.
“Everyone I know comes here,” Tomaselli said. “I like to keep my money right in my community.”
St. Mark’s is one of several organizations selling trees for charity, one of “603 Reasons” readers said New Hampshire is special.
Al Lamson, who coordinates the tree sales at St. Mark’s, said he enjoys seeing the same people year after year.
“It’s part of people’s traditions,” he said. “It helps that everyone knows where it’s going.”
The Masons use the money they raise from tree sales to help the Sonshine Soup Kitchen, First Baptist Church food pantry and the Derry News Santa Fund.
In Salem, the Exchange Club has been selling trees for more than 30 years.
“This is by far the biggest fundraiser we do each year,” Exchange Club president Andrew Nelson said. “It’s how we are able to do a lot of the stuff that we do.”
The club is selling trees from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day at Berge’s Real Estate on South Broadway. The fundraiser nets the club about $10,000 each year, Nelson said.
“We’re on track to sell out,” Nelson said. “We buy about 450 trees each year.”
The money goes seemingly everywhere in town. The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem gets a cut for being Berge’s Real Estate’s charity of choice. Salem Boy Scouts and JROTC members help sell the trees and get some money for their organizations in return. The club also uses the money to buy presents for families who cannot afford them.
“Our trees range between $35 and $75,” Nelson said. “But people like to donate an extra $5 or $10 because they know we give the money away.”
The Salem Exchange Club’s sale aren’t the only trees the Boys and Girls Club is benefitting from. Tuscan Brands on Main Street is selling trees and donating a portion of the proceeds to the club.
“(Tuscan Brands) was approached by a landscaping company who wanted to do it this year,” said Denise Dolloff, director of development at the Boys and Girls Club. “They said they’d only do it if they give some of it to the Boys and Girls Club.”
Dolloff said the money they get from the trees is a big help around the holiday season.
“We’re grateful they are doing anything at all,” Dolloff said. “We appreciate people being in the holiday spirit.”
The Hampstead Firemens Association held its annual tree sale Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The money they raise is the primary source for the town’s annual Christmas parade.
“We’ve been selling them for 40 years,” fire Capt. Chris Dane said. “We normally sell 300 trees, but this year we only sold 200 trees because there was only one weekend between Thanksgiving and the parade.”
Dane said they usually get their trees from Canada. At St. Mark’s, Lamson said they get their 410 trees from a farm on the New Hampshire-Vermont border. Prices range from $30 to $85.
“The most expensive ones sold out as soon as they got off the truck,” Lamson said. “Everyone wants a big tree.”
But the big trees aren’t for Tomaselli.
“I’m getting a medium-sized tree this year,” he said. “I’m 5 foot nothing, I can’t get anything that makes me look too small.”