Daily Journal Staff Writer
Every family should have a Christmas tree, according to Charles Welch.
And when a family in need comes to his Whiteland Christmas tree stand, Welch makes sure they have one.
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“Everyone, especially every kid, should have a Christmas tree and a present under it. It’s such a kids holiday. It’s a caring time and a giving time,” Welch said.
Welch started the tradition in honor of his mother, Ginger Bailey. In 2001, the two were working at a Christmas tree lot in Whiteland. On a snowy night, three consecutive customers came in who were able to pay little or nothing, but Welch gave them the trees anyway.
He told his mother he hadn’t made any money off the trees, and she responding by telling him to never let someone leave without a tree because they couldn’t afford it.
Bailey died the following year of cancer, and Welch remembers his mother’s words.
Last year, Welch, who is also a teacher at Southport Middle School, gave away 19 trees. After the weekend, he had given away only six from his stand in front of the Wishing Well Motel off U.S. 31 in Whiteland. And he had about 70 trees left, out of an inventory of 310.
He expects there are more families in need who will come to see him.
“I don’t know why there haven’t been as many. Last year I think a lot found out through word of mouth from churches. Maybe that word of mouth hasn’t gone out yet,” Welch said.
Welch contacted churches and service organizations before Thanksgiving to let them know about his practice of giving away trees to those who cannot pay. Trees 8-feet-tall and shorter are available free of charge to those unable to afford the cost.
Typically, the trees at his stand start at $25. For every tree sold, Welch puts $1 dollar in a bucket to help cover the cost of the trees he donates. And workers encourage shoppers to donate, too, by rattling the bucket and ringing bells. The donation bucket sits inside a tent under a framed picture
“We have a lot of fun with that. It’s just part of the good feeling we have about what we’re doing, and we hope other people will get involved,”
After covering the cost of the donated trees, anything left in the donation bucket goes to the Salvation Army food pantry in Greenwood. Last year, he donated $82 to the charity, Welch said.
Charles Welch gives away free Christmas trees to needy families in honor of his mother, Ginger Bailey, who encouraged him to not let anyone go without a tree because they couldn’t pay.
Tree stand: Wishing Well Motel, 511 S. U.S. 31, open 2 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Donation: Welch donates a free tree, 8-feet-tall and shorter, to families who are unable to pay. One dollar from the sale of every tree goes to cover the cost of the donated trees. Customers are also encouraged to donate. Anything left goes to a food pantry.