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Spreading holiday happiness

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MEASURE: Jim Hildebrand smiles after he measured a Christmas tree for a family who stopped by for pickup.
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POINT: Lauren Baker shows her nieces, Lincoln and Charley Baker, where Jim Hildebrand (right) had drilled a hole to insert their tree stand.
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SMALL TREE: Craig Hildebrand (right) hands Lincoln Baker (pink) a miniature Christmas tree he made with small tree branches, while her sister Charley Baker (blue) shows the one she got to her grandma, Sherry Baker.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

In the midst of the snow flurries yesterday afternoon, Lions Club members were in high spirits as they continued to help spread Christmas cheer with their Christmas tree sale taking place outside of the clubhouse, across the street from the Sunken Gardens.

The Huntington Lions Club began selling the shipment of 420 trees on Nov. 17 and has had the sale every year for nearly 50 years to raise money for the club. The money raised from the sale all pours back into the community.

Jim Hildebrand, Lions Club member, said the money goes to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington County, Varsity Singers, scholarships for graduating seniors at Huntington North, food pantries and more.

Hildebrand explained that since the sale started in the 1970s, they have switched from only selling Scotch Pine trees to adding in Fraser Firs, per preference of the community. He noted that Frasers don’t shed as much and hold up nicer.

Lions Club member Bill Hess spoke up and said Frasers also have a softer needle, and Hildebrand’s nephew Craig Hildebrand – also a member – said Scotch Pines don’t have as much of a scent, while Frasers have a beautiful smell.

Craig added that another special thing about their tree sale is that the trees come with a stand to help ensure that the tree stands up perfectly straight.

“We make our own stands, and it helps hold the tree. The rods make sure the tree is perfectly straight – better than the plastic ones you just screw in,” he said.

Customers can also bring the stands back year after year and use the same one. Once a tree is purchased, club members can then screw it into place.

Craig also created miniature Christmas trees to give to children who stop by. He drilled into small circular slabs of wood and inserted a small stray Christmas tree branch for kids to display wherever they’d like.

He suggested to a few kids that they add an ornament or two to the small branches and hope for extra presents.

The tree sale has become a tradition in Huntington – one that Hildebrand said is only made successful through the support of the community.

“It’s been a project of the Lions for over 50 years … They have a good following over the years. People keep coming back, and without the community it wouldn’t happen. If it happened, it would be a much smaller scale,” he said.

Craig added that he believes he was even a recipient of a Lions Club scholarship when he had graduated high school and now he’s on the other side of it, helping raise money for other students.

 Hildebrand explained that prices depend on the height of the tree but vary from $45 up to $90 and Hess added that they scale from six feet to ten feet.

Hildebrand said they’re open Monday-Thursday from 1-6 p.m., Friday from 1-8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday from 12-8 p.m.