Due to a lack of available trees this year and the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Scouts BSA Troop 43 was planning to partner with the Macon County Rural King, consolidate stands, and move them back to the original location. Those plans have changed. Scouts BSA Troop Committee Chair Kent Newton, Scout Master Kevin Johnson, and Venturing Crew Advisor Chip Platt released a joint statement announcing the cancellation of the annual Christmas Tree Sales fundraiser: “After much deliberation considering the health and safety of our Scouts and customers, and the financial impact if additional mitigation measures are implemented, Scouts BSA Troop 43 and Venturing Crew 343 committees have decided to cancel the annual tree sale fundraiser for this year.” Troop 43 and Crew 343 have sold Christmas trees as a fundraiser for 28 years.
The tree stand was originally established in the Kmart Plaza off Mount Zion Road in the early 1990s, but relocated to the Mt. Zion Kroger and Kenny’s Ace Hardware when Kmart closed in 2002. Over the years, the fundraiser has provided opportunities to support the outdoor experiences and purchase camping supplies for hundreds of youths in the Mt. Zion area. There are currently 32 active Scouts and 10 Crew members. Newton said that the Troop was planning new COVID-19 safety measures for this year’s sales that included reducing the number of Scout families working each shift as well as the number of hours for each shift, but as hospitalizations and cases continue to rise, all of Illinois will enter Tier 3 of the Coronavirus Resurgence Mitigation Plan due to exponential growth in every region of the state and a statewide positivity rate that has surpassed the Spring peak, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced November 17th.
The committees unanimously agreed continuing the holiday tradition was both too risky for the health of the Scouts who staff the tree stand and too burdensome to effectively operate. Johnson said that the Troop had placed a $1,675 deposit with the supplier of Scotch and white pine trees, and was concerned that the entire amount would be lost when the decision to cancel the fundraiser was made. Fortunately, the Troop recently learned that the supplier released the Troop from the contract and issued a full refund. Johnson and other volunteers were scheduled to pick up 400 trees in Indiana on Saturday, November 21st.
Macon County Rural King will still have 175 fir trees available for people who wish to purchase a real tree for Christmas. Further information on Scouts BSA Troop 43 can be found at https://www.troopwebhost.org/Troop43MtZion/Index.htm