Devastated organisers have apologised after reluctantly calling off the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas tree collection.
The decision to cancel last weekend’s collection was forced upon organisers after the country went into a new national lockdown.
A refund will be offered to more than 6,000 customers who had registered their trees on the charity’s website www.echtrees.org.uk.
Donors can decline that option if they wish, helping the Hospice financially during the toughest time in its 32-year history.
Another option is for customers to have their trees collected once lockdown restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so.
However, it is unclear when this later collection can take place because of uncertainty over the length of the latest lockdown period.
It is the first time in the scheme’s 21-year history the collection has not taken place. Four years ago it was delayed by a week because of bad weather.
Organisers desperately disappointed by having to make the decision insist the scheme will be back in full swing in 2022.
Volunteers helping at a previous collection.
The cancellation is another serious financial blow to the Hospice as the tree campaign is one of its flagship fundraising events of the year.
Months of meticulous planning had again gone into this year’s scheme.
Officials had carefully considered safety restrictions caused by Covid-19, with volunteers and driving teams kept in family/support bubbles.
Further discussions were then held after the end-of-year announcement that Cheshire was going into Tier 4, with the decision made that it was safe to continue.
However, any hopes the collection could still go ahead ended once the third lockdown was imposed.
Organisers immediately halted tree registrations before concluding the collection could not go ahead.
A Hospice statement said: “We’re truly sorry we’ve had to make this decision but the safety of our community and all involved in making the collection happen must come first. Therefore, we must postpone for a safer time and follow the government’s guidance to stay at home.
“This is a devastating blow to the Hospice after an extremely challenging year for fundraising, having been unable to hold a major fundraising event since the last Christmas Tree Collection in January 2020!
“The collection is one of our biggest annual campaigns generating vital funds that we rely on to continue to provide our care. ”
Volunteers before last year’s Christmas tree collection.