Phenomenal growth of tree collections is a joy
A SIMPLE graph charts the spectacular progress of one of the country’s most successful fundraising campaigns.
More than £678,000 has been donated to East Cheshire Hospice from the collection of Christmas trees since 2001.
Last winter a record £102,000 was raised from more than 6,800 individual collections – an amazing contribution underlining a massive community effort from volunteers, sponsors, the council and residents who give generously.
Teamwork is undoubtedly key to the success of the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas tree collection, which this year won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
Even hospice president David Briggs MBE KStJ, Her Majesty’s LordLieutenant of Cheshire, was out in his wellies retrieving trees for recycling into green waste on a cold and wet January weekend.
Organisers are friends Richard Raymond, Pete Chapman, Tony Middleton and Andrew Robertson who resist any job titles or calling themselves a committee, yet know precisely what is required to mobilise a fleet of vans and 260 volunteers each year.
The quartet began the countdown to the 2017 collection (Saturday, January 14 and Sunday, January 15) some time ago, though all year the subject of Christmas trees is probably never far from discussion during get-togethers over a pint at the Park Tavern in Macclesfield.
Back in 1999, Pete’s wife Heather had an idea to collect trees to help buy a new organ at Prestbury Church where son Andy, then 15, sang in the choir. Each chorister was given £10 as an incentive and the family trailer which made that initial journey to gather trees alerted them to the scheme’s fundraising potential.
Pete recalled: “We used the £10 note to pay for petrol to collect trees from the neighbours and also raised £600 for two charities. Everyone said it was a brilliant idea and asked if we we’d do it again.
“We’ve been blown away by how successful it’s been over the years. It’s been beyond our wildest dreams and has inspired around 30 similar collections around the country.”
Richard Raymond, from Macclesfield, was a co-founder. He said: “Pete asked me the second year if we could borrow a van from where I worked and the third year said he felt he was on to something. We needed a charity that would appeal to everyone in the area so decided to support the hospice.
“I guess the collection has enjoyed that rolling stone of momentum and there’s now a general realisation among the community, and on social media, that it’s the route of choice for disposing of Christmas trees in this area. It wouldn’t happen, though, without the volunteers who do a fantastic job.”
The scheme spans a wide area including Macclesfield, Poynton, Chelford, Alderley Edge, Disley, Wilmslow and Knutsford and more recently has expanded to Congleton.
Tony’s IT expertise ensures vital information is captured on a database via www.echtrees.org.uk, where people can now register to have their trees collected. Telephone bookings are also accepted.
Tony said: “It’s great fun, especially over the collection weekend and we do it because it’s for such a good cause. By the Monday morning we’re all shattered and then there’s still two or three months of follow-up work to complete.”
Andrew helps with publicity and co-ordinates volunteers counting donations. He said: “The bulk of the collection is on the bank’s counter by first thing Tuesday morning and we’re extremely proud of that. It also saves the hospice a lot of admin time.
“Banners are an effective way of raising people’s awareness and they’ve been refurbished this year to include the crown from the Queen’s Award. Posters and leaflets delivered by newspaper boys and girls also help.
“It’s a fantastic team effort and helps people grow an important allegiance towards the hospice.”
The organising team (from left) – Andrew Robertson, Pete Chapman, Tony Middleton and Richard Raymond
The amount of cash raised for the hospice has rocketed since the first collection in 2001