For Optimists, it takes some sweat to prep Christmas-tree sales

Volunteers from Offender Aid & Restoration and Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic joined members of the Optimist Club of Arlington in unloading and setting up Christmas trees on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.

The 53-foot-long tractor-trailer from Grace-n-Mercy Trucking of Columbia, S.C., was right on schedule, bringing with it a fragrant bounty of Christmas trees for the Optimist Club of Arlington’s annual holiday sale.

And then, on the sunny morning of Nov. 26, the unloading began of 700 fraser fir and white pine that until the day before had stood tall in Galax, Va., and are now destined for homes across the local community.

It was, in fact, the second batch to be unloaded; the day before, another semi had disgorged a similar amount of trees, part of a group ranging in size from 6 to 10 feet. A few as tall as 14 feet also can be found in the mix.

“The heaviest trees take two or three guys to do them,” said Sandy Bushue, the majordomo of the operation, of the effort to get the trees prepped for sale starting the day after Thanksgiving.

“Safety is paramount,” Bushue intoned, reminding volunteers from Offender Aid & Restoration and Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic to take care, bend from their knees, hydrate and not overexert.

(Bushue then scampered up into the truck to help lead the effort dropping the trees to waiting volunteers. “That’s the hardest job, up in the truck,” she noted, allowing that she enjoyed the role. “I’m a farmer’s daughter,” Bushue noted.)

To unload the shipment that had arrived Nov. 25, the Optimist Club relied on volunteers from one of the teams that receives its support.

“We had wonderful help from the Yorktown crew team, their parents and even some of their siblings that came back from college,” said Barbara Nicastro, who led volunteer-recruitment efforts for the sale.

The unloading (on each day) took place under near-perfect conditions – the air was placid while the sun added some, yet not too much, warmth – far better than years when conditions had been too hot, too cold or too wet.

But it was still strenuous work.

“Suck it up, cupcake,” one of the leaders of the OAR squad said jocularly to others. “If I don’t see sweat, you’re not doing it right.”

The Optimist Club has been selling trees at the corner of Lee Highway and North Glebe Road since 1946. The site has been a prime location for banking institutions (Wells Fargo currently occupies it), and despite concerns that the parcel eventually will fall to redevelopment and lose its large surface parking lot, Optimists for now remain able to call it their own during the four-week sale.

Because of Thanksgiving’s falling relatively late in November this year, the selling season will be a “real short session,” Nicastro said. But “you go with what the calendar and Mother Nature give you,” she noted.

The sale is slated to run until supplies are exhausted or Dec. 23, whichever comes first. It would be a rare year indeed that there were any significant numbers of trees left over by Christmas. Last year, when Thanksgiving and the tree sales arrived relatively early on the calendar, it took just three weeks to sell out the entire supply, including an additional shipment that arrived in early December.

The tree sale is the Arlington Optimist Club’s largest fund-raiser of the year, providing financial support for the organization’s academic and athletic programs for youth.

The 2019 sale will run Mondays through Thursdays from 2 to 8 p.m.; Fridays from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information, see the Web site at

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