by Alison Houston
AN IDEA which began 10 years ago with the sale of about 150 Christmas trees as a Rotary Club of Kariong Somersby fundraiser has branched out - excuse the pun - into a four-club effort raising over $20,000 for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) program.
That's not to mention the other half of the funds raised from the sale of up to 1500 trees last year, which will be split pro rata between the four Rotary Clubs (Kariong Somersby, Woy Woy, Erina and North Lakes-Toukely) for local projects.
Kariong Somersby club president Greg Groppenbacher is the man behind the original idea and admits that with each tree measuring 6.5-8 feet (2-2.4m) in height, it's a big job for the 70-odd Rotarians manning the seven sale sites over two weekends, aided by Central Coast Family Support Services (CCFSS) staff, who run the GRG program, and some of the grandparents involved.
"They're long days, but the nice thing about it is the Rotarians love to do it because it's so much fun seeing the families come through and the kids, often, trying to pick out exactly which tree they want," Greg said.
"The trees come out of Victoria and they are cut on the Wednesday or Thursday and sold on the Saturday, so they are really fresh and last a month at least.
"That's why it's been so successful because people come back each year to buy these big, dense, bushy trees and also to help the clubs and the grandparents program."
Among other things, the program can provide counselling, enhance grandparents' parenting practices and understanding of child behaviour, build relationship skills and confidence and provide information about other services.
Originally backed by the State Government, it pulled its funding after just two years, which is when the Rotary Club stepped in.
"It's personally very satisfying to have started this and to see what it has become," Greg said.
"It's not often Rotary Clubs join up and co-operate their efforts on one project like this."
Greg also thanked council and the various businesses which allowed the clubs to sell the trees on-site, and 2GO for publicity.
"Without those people we wouldn't be able to do it," he said.
So, watch out next year for the Rotary Clubs' Christmas tree sale, and remember what's involved and just who you will be helping.
To find out more about this program and others offered by CCFSS go to http://ccfss.org.au.