The Nativity Men’s Club has as its motto the Latin phrase pro liberis, meaning “for the children.” The club sponsors fundraisers throughout the year. One of these is the Christmas tree lot that during the holidays occupies the east end of the Nativity Church and School parking lot at 1900 Stanford Ave. From the day after Thanksgiving until the last tree is sold, Men’s Club members help folks find a tree to their liking and thereby support the children of the parish and school.

Nativity tree lot
Men's Club president Tim McGlinch trimmed a balsam fir on opening day of the Nativity Church and School Christmas Tree Lot at 1900 Stanford Ave. Photo by Brad Stauffer

The Christmas trees are selling fast this year, possibly due to reports of a shortage. In the first three days, more than 760 trees were sold. The Men’s Club expected to get a shipment of 300 more trees on November 30, “but that will be it,” said longtime member and former tree lot chair Daniel Murray. “The wholesalers are sold out.”

Nativity’s tree lot is open from 5:30-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. While shopping for a tree, customers are offered free refreshments and snacks. A fresh cut is given to the trunks upon purchase, and trees are wrapped and secured to vehicles as requested. There is also free delivery for seniors and the homebound.

“The tree lot is a warm, welcoming environment for neighbors and parishioners,” said Joel Metz, who has served as chair of the tree lot since 2019. “For newer and younger parishioners, working there is the perfect way to contribute and become a part of the camaraderie that has been part of the tree lot since its beginning.”
 
Metz, who lives around the corner from Nativity, said he “became involved in the Men’s Club after being invited by my neighbors, Mike Skillrud and Jim Lonetti. Jim is a former tree lot chair. My wife and I have been parishioners since 2005, and we have two daughters who attend Nativity School.”
 
Nativity tree lot
Holly Adebiyi and her son Ori, 3, picked out a tree just his size at the Nativity Men's Club Christmas Tree Lot on November 26. Photo by Brad Stauffer

With the assistance of Scott Hennis, who also lives around the corner from the school, Metz was expecting the tree lot to be strong this year in terms of worker enthusiasm and sales. The lot is typically open until Christmas Eve. “Last year, though, we were only open for about 10 days—after three shipments of trees,” Metz said.

   

The fresh-cut trees are ordered from three different vendors. “This year they’re coming from Pleasant Valley, Northern and Hinkemeyer Farms,” Metz said. “Our most popular trees are the Fraser fir, 7 to 8 feet tall.” Table-top trees, wreaths, garland and swags are also available.

The tree lot is a Christmas story in itself, according to Murray, who lives just two blocks away. He and his wife Mary Joan have two sons, Nativity grads who have also helped out at the tree lot. “We’ve had three generations up at the lot,” Murray said, “and we all get our trees there.”

The tree lot was originally sponsored by the Nativity Church choir, but in 1994 the Men’s Club “happily took it over,” Murray said. “Over the years it has evolved into this wonderful experience. It’s a community-building event that all of us are very proud of. Families take their Christmas picture with the trees in the background. They have group nights where brothers and cousins all work and have fun together.”

 

house ad

 

The tree lot was originally sponsored by the Nativity Church choir, but in 1994 the Men’s Club “happily took it over,” Murray said. “Over the years it has evolved into this wonderful experience. It’s a community-building event that all of us are very proud of. Families take their Christmas picture with the trees in the background. They have group nights where brothers and cousins all work and have fun together.”

In the early years of the tree lot, the Men’s Club worked out of a plywood shanty that the choir had provided. “It held five people,” Murray said. “One night Father John Kelley, Dan Thees, Dana Schnobrich, Mary Joan and I were in the tiny shack. It was so cold that we all left our cars running, fearing they might not restart. Dan suggested, as long as we were all together, that Father Kelley renew our vows.”

In subsequent years, a parishioner and Men’s Club board member loaned the club a construction trailer. “The current trailer was donated by McGough Construction, then rehabbed some years later,” Murray said. “It’s a warming house, a place to pay for trees. There’s a donated hot chocolate machine. There are great photos on the walls, lights, deer antlers.”

Also hanging in the trailer is the Nativity Tree Lot Hall of Fame. “It started in 1995 when the board first recognized those who worked over the top to make the tree lot successful,” Murray said. “A small group recommends a person, one or sometimes two a year. Even if it’s not a board member, but just a dedicated volunteer, they get their name on the plaque.”

In 27 years, Men’s Club volunteers have collected many memories from the Christmas tree lot. “There are stories about bitter cold nights, huge snowstorms, grilling deer back straps on our fire pit,” Murray said. “There are stories of potluck suppers and people showing up in old cars on their last legs with kids in not the warmest clothes. They would ask, ‘Do you have any less expensive trees?’ We’d just give them a tree and tell them, ‘Merry Christmas.’”

Murray recalled the night he was working at the tree lot with John Mullen, another Men’s Club member. “Two women, age 50s, came looking for a tree,” he said. “Cloth coats, sensible shoes, holy aura about them. We guessed they were nuns, sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. They confirmed it. We gave them a nice tree, wouldn’t take any money. Gave them a wreath and garland, too. I told them, ‘You’ve given your lives to spiritual and social justice causes. We’re giving you your tree and the other items.’ It was a proud moment.”

— Anne Murphy

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.