How did it start ?
In 1999 Prestbury Church was trying to raise money to replace the failing organ used to accompany the activities of its two choirs. Mike Thompson, a member of the Men and Boys Choir, and his wife Lis suggested that £10 be given to each choir member to be returned hopefully with interest (as with The Parable of the Talents).
Nobody realised how the Chapman family’s £10 idea of collecting and disposing of dead Christmas Trees would grow. With their trailer they organised a collection in the Prestbury area and divided the donations received equally between a Children’s Charity and the Organ fund. It was a great success and the following year several friends and neighbours asked if they were going to do it again. So the Collection was born and started to grow.
Since 2001, East Cheshire Hospice has been the sole beneficiary of the donations and the Collection has raised more than £1million!
In 2016 we were honoured to receive the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the MBE for volunteer groups. We have also been a finalist in the National Recycling Awards on two separate occasions.
So what is it all about?
The Christmas Tree Collection Service capitalises on the fact that a lot of people enjoy a natural tree which they buy wrapped in netting but then find its disposal to be less easy. The Collection offers a solution by saving all the mess in one’s car or avoiding the hassle of cutting up the tree to put in the green bin.
Furthermore a real Christmas tree from a sustainable source is known to be the eco-friendly alternative to a plastic version. The Christmas Tree Collection recycles all the trees it collects so enhancing the environmental credentials of buying a real tree!
So how does it work?
Before Christmas a publicity campaign is mounted with banners, posters, leaflets and articles in selected publications in the areas from which we collect. These are CW12, SK9, SK10, SK11, SK12 & WA16 postcode areas.
Just before the great Collection weekend the team is frantic as bookings are listed, rounds are organised and lorries are confirmed. An army of volunteers (over 300) leap into action and over 2,000 hours of effort are generously given.
Then to the weekend itself…
In 2019 we used over 40 vehicles, staffed by more than 300 volunteers, and made over 7,000 individual collections, and recycled over 72 tonnes of trees.
We had volunteer drivers, navigators, crew, supporters, chefs, coffee makers and biscuit bakers along with customer care, finance and mulching teams. Meals were on the hoof, and a hearty lunch was provided in our self-styled ‘Mulchers Arms’!
Did we have fun? Most certainly! Who managed to lose a tree from the back of a pick-up? Who got the biggest tree? Who went the furthest for a tree? Who left a tree behind (but still took the money!)? How many of us were paid by people still in their nightwear – what time do you get up on a Sunday?!
And the highlights?
The commitment and camaraderie of a marvellous team of volunteers of all ages. The generosity of spirit of those from whom we collected – your grateful comments sustained us and your wonderful contributions to the cause will help the Hospice considerably. However, the beer and hot bath at the end of each day was oh so welcome!
What do we do with the trees?
We are very grateful to have a partnership with Ansa Environmental Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cheshire East Council, who are involved in the recycling operation. They turn our trees into a mulch which is either composted to make a soil improver for the benefit of Cheshire, or for use in biomass boilers.
So that is our story
We could not have achieved all of this without great help from our community, our supporters, sponsors, partners and volunteers.
Your part in it is to support us in our efforts to grow the Collection into an even larger operation and so raise greater sums of money for the East Cheshire Hospice!