New Christmas tree lot sprouts in Umatilla

Mark Keith, Jennifer Armstrong and Richard Payan invite people to Coach Payan's Christmas Trees in Umatilla. It's open daily from noon to 8 p.m., with proceeds helping local youth sports teams.

People searching for fresh-cut Christmas trees from charitable groups this holiday season may have a harder time finding the perfect tree. However, before dashing your hopes and buying a manufactured tree — look further, as they are available in the area.

As the supply of trees has dwindled across the nation, it has impacted local organizations. According to the Associated Press, the yuletide market decline sprouted a decade ago with an overabundance of Christmas trees and the Great Recession, which drove many growers out of business.

The Umatilla Volunteer Firefighters Association announced it wouldn’t be selling trees this year. In addition to rising costs and shrinking proceeds — the group raises money to fund community projects, including a Christmas basket program providing food and gifts for needy families — increased time demands has limited people’s availability to run the Christmas tree lot.

The Boardman Firefighters Association also are feeling the heat. Although their sales started Sunday, Richard Hernandez said people won’t have as many choices.

“Due to rising cost and having to get a new vendor, we will be limited to selling only 100 trees this year,” he said.

The Hermiston Kiwanis Club, who have sold Christmas trees since the ‘70s, are continuing with the fundraising effort, said Doug Barak. In recent years, the service club has ordered 400 trees and sold out within two weeks. The group, Barak said, began sales Tuesday and will man the Christmas tree lot at the Hermiston Community Center until all are gone.

A handful of people associated with Encore Wellness 4 Life decided to branch out. Coach Payan’s Christmas Trees is set up outside the recently re-located wellness clinic at 82346 Bucks Lane — located near the Highway 730 and 395 junction. While looking for the perfect Douglas, grand or noble firs, people are invited to warm up around the fire pit and enjoy hot chocolate, apple cider and candy canes. The lot is officially open daily from noon to 8 p.m. However, if people come by Monday through Friday mornings, clinic staff will assist them.

For the past decade, Jennifer Armstrong has provided sports physicals to Umatilla students. With Family Health Associates now contracting with Umatilla’s hospital district, the nurse practitioner pondered new ways to give back to the community. Her husband, Mark Keith, who previously assisted with the Umatilla firefighters tree lot, wanted people to still be able to purchase Christmas trees in town. Kelly Payan, Encore’s operations manager, and her husband, Richard, dashed at the chance to help.

“What better way to give back than during the holiday season?” said Richard Payan, the lot’s namesake. “A lot of families can’t go outside the area to get a tree.”

Youth sports teams are invited to contact Coach Payan’s Christmas Trees to schedule time to work in the tree lot. They will receive a donation of 20 percent of sales.

“Our goal is to help the teams earn a little money and to teach them about responsibility and giving back,” Keith said.

A gregarious youth sports coach, Payan was thrilled with selling a 10-foot grand fir to a customer Saturday evening. The Hermiston family was buying a fresh tree for the first time.

“That was cool,” Payan said. “They were really excited to find such a big and beautiful tree.”

For more information, call 541-922-1750 or search Facebook.

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