The Christmas trees for sale in the center of the Park Circle roundabout and at Citadel Mall will be bringing some extra cheer, not only to buyers but to the sellers this holiday season.
The men behind those Christmas tree lots are residents at the North Charleston branch of the Delancey Street Foundation, formerly called SC Strong, a nonprofit organization that serves as a recovery place for former substance abusers and incarcerated people who are looking to turn their lives around.
The organization allows residents to live at the North Charleston residence, all expenses paid, as they contribute to work around the house and grounds and at various partnering companies around town. While there, they have access to certain resources and, more importantly, a community.
There are several homes located around the United States, including one in Brewster, N.Y., that the Charleston crew visits for a week every Christmas, with a pit stop in New York City to see Rockefeller Center and explore other sights in the Big Apple.
From the day after Thanksgiving up through Christmas Eve, the local residents will be selling trees to Lowcountry residents in order to raise money.
"The hopes are to keep the lights on for the first few months of the year," said Don Schiffman, a resident of the program who now serves as its marketing coordinator.
This is Delancey Street's only fundraiser of the year, and all of the proceeds from the tree lots go back to the organization.
"Buy a tree, save a life," Schiffman said.
Delancey Street gets its lots of Carolina Frasier firs from the North Carolina mountains, Schiffman said. This year, there will be 1,100 trees for sale in both lots. There will also be wreaths and garland for purchase. Donations will be accepted.
Schiffman said that the tree sales have increased by 60 percent in the past two years. The group has been selling Christmas trees since 2015.
"For us, it’s a busy time of year," Schiffman said. "Our guys go out there from early morning and are there most of the day."
He said there is also a race to see who can get the most tips.
Schiffman shared a story a resident told him while working one of the tree lots last year:
A boy in a wheelchair came to pick out a tree with his mother and brother. They were overheard talking, and the mother said they could either get a tree or go out to dinner that night. The Delancey Street resident offered the family a free tree so they could have both, and the mother started crying.
Schiffman said that the spirit of giving is one takeaway residents get from working the tree lots each year.
"It puts a good feeling into our guys," he said. "That’s what we’re trying to do: make amends within ourselves but also help out others in the community."
On Christmas Day, before leaving for New York, the Delancey Street Foundation residents gather in their living room to open presents beneath one of their own trees.
"Some of these guys get to experience, maybe for the first time, their own Christmas," Schiffman said. "It's a special feeling, even for the older residents."
Schiffman said that, in the future, he hopes the North Charleston Delancey Street Foundation can expand and perhaps become a co-ed community like other branches throughout the country.