People searching for fresh-cut Christmas trees from nonprofit organizations this holiday season may have a harder time finding the perfect tree. However, before dashing your hopes and buying a manufactured tree — look further, as they are available in the area.

As the supply of trees has dwindled across the nation, it has trickled down to local groups selling trees. According to the Associated Press, the yuletide market decline sprouted a decade ago with an overabundance of Christmas trees and the Great Recession, which resulted in driving many growers out of business.

The Umatilla Volunteer Firefighters Association announced it wouldn’t be selling trees this year due to a combination of factors. In addition to the rising costs of trees and shrinking proceeds — the group raises money to fund community projects, including a Christmas basket program providing food and gifts for needy families — increased demands of time has limited the manpower needed to run the Christmas tree lot.

The Boardman Firefighters Association also are feeling the crunch. Although their sales started Sunday, Richard Hernandez said people won’t have as many choices.

“Due to rising cost and having to get a new vendor, we will be limited to selling only 100 trees this year,” he said.

A handful of people associated with Encore Wellness 4 Life decided to step up so people can still purchase Christmas trees in Umatilla. Coach Payan Christmas Trees is set up outside the recently relocated wellness clinic at 82346 Bucks Lane — located near the Highway 730 and 395 junction. While looking for the perfect Douglas, grand or noble firs, people are invited to warm up around the fire pit. In addition, hot chocolate, apple cider and candy canes are available. The lot is officially open daily from noon to 8 p.m. However, if people come by Monday through Friday mornings, clinic staff will be happy to serve them.

For the past decade, Jennifer Armstrong has provided sports physicals to Umatilla students. With Family Health Associates now contracting with Umatilla’s hospital district, the nurse practitioner was looking for another way to give back to the community. Her husband, Mark Keith, previously assisted with the Umatilla firefighters tree lot, and didn’t want to see the availability of Christmas trees in Umatilla just fade away. Kelly Payan, the operations manager at Encore, and her husband, Richard, quickly dashed at the chance to get involved with the effort.

“What better way to give back than during the holiday season,” said Richard Payan, the lot’s namesake. “A lot of families can’t go outside the area to get a tree.”

Youth sports teams are invited to contact Coach Payan Christmas Trees to schedule time to work in the tree lot. They will receive a donation of 20 percent of sales.

“Our goal is to help the teams earn a little money and to teach them about responsibility and giving back,” Keith said.

A gregarious youth sports coach, Payan was thrilled with selling a 10-foot grand fir to a customer Saturday evening. The Hermiston family was buying a fresh tree for the first time.

“That was cool,” Payan said. “They were really excited to find such a big and beautiful tree.”

For more information, call 541-922-1750 or search Facebook.

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Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539

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