What do Christmas trees have to do with fighting hunger? Just ask the faithful community of Vale United Methodist Church. This picturesque United Methodist church, located in the Washington D.C. suburb of Oakton, VA, looks like a scene from one of Norman Rockwell’s iconic Christmas paintings. But there is nothing old-fashioned about this church’s approach to solving hunger.
Vale UMC congregants have been thinking outside the proverbial meal box since 2009 by hosting their annual “Christmas Tree Sale to Fight Hunger…Near and Far.” Every year, hundreds of volunteers help make the annual tree sale a huge success. Much of the heavy lifting can be attributed to the local Boy Scout troop (that meets at Vale UMC) and their family members, who staff the tree lot on Saturdays and Sundays through November and December.
“Every year a large number of our customers are people who have bought their trees from us in the past. They’ve made us a part of their Christmas tradition,” says Clint O’Brien, Vale UMC member and tree sale organizer. “The customers love the fact that their purchase is helping to feed hungry kids.”
But what really moves the needle (pun intended) is the laminated price tags that are placed on every tree, inviting the customer to come back and volunteer for the meal packaging experience every January. With a slogan like “Buy One Tree, Feed 100 Kids”, who can resist? This movement-building invitation not only engages their local community in ministry and mission, but also helps spread the message that ending hunger is possible.
In 2018, Vale UMC sold 806 Christmas trees netting a profit of over $28,000, of which the proceeds went to cover the donation for their 75,000 meal packaging experience and support other local hunger initiatives. Since 2010, Vale UMC has engaged over 2,700 volunteers in 10 events to package 539,920 meals. Their meals have been distributed to beneficiaries in Peru, Mozambique, Haiti, El Salvador, eSwatini, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Ukraine, Nicaragua and Panama. It is faith communities like these all around the world that are making a truly global impact to fight hunger.
Won’t you join us? With a little hard work, and perhaps a Christmas tree or two, you can help change a life by providing hope and opportunity to a child in need. To learn how to engage your faith community, visit riseagainsthunger.org/faith or email Rev. Kevin Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you’re looking for a place to get your tree this year…I know a spot.