Northwest NEWS

December 9, 2002

Business

The Grinch didnít steal Christmas
He just helped himself to a bunch of Christmas trees
Photo by Ian Gleadle
Christmas tree rustlers made off with 80 -100 trees from Woodinville Community United Methodist Church Christmas tree lot at 17110 140th Ave., NE.
by Jeanette Knutson
Staff Writer

The youth group from Woodinville Community United Methodist Church at 17110 140th Ave., NE has been operating a Christmas tree lot for 15 years.
The business philosophy driving the successful lot is quite simple.
“Buy the best tree you can find,” said youth pastor Steve Parsons. “That way, the tree will sell itself and customers will come back. Our goal is to sell two trees, really, one this year and one the next. And it seems to work. With fair pricing, courteous service and quality trees, our (tree business) continues to grow.”
But the youth group hit a stumbling block this year. Christmas tree rustlers made off with between 80 and 100 sheared Douglas and grand firs.
Thieves operated under the cloak of darkness and a blanket of fog the night after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29.
“This wasn’t a couple kids and a pickup truck,” said Parsons.
The number of trees stolen represents one-fifth of a semi-truck load.
That means the thieves used a big flat bed truck or a semi, said Parsons.
He figures two or three people frantically loaded a flat bed with trees, then drove 100 or 200 miles away. They probably stopped at a lot, said they cut down too many trees and would give the lot owner a good price for these.
Woodinville Police Chief Ken Wardstrom, who said the department has no leads in the case so far, said the thieves are probably supplying a lot somewhere else, either their own or someone else’s.
Proceeds from the tree lot go to fund the church’s youth group, comprised of 80 to 100 junior high and senior high students, said youth administrator Heather Gifford.
She said the majority of the money finances summer programs the church offers on a three-year rotation. One year the youth group will participate in a world mission - the group went to Nicaragua last year. One year the group will participate in a local mission - the group put on a Vacation Bible School for migrant workers’ children, for example. And one year the group sends high schoolers to a leadership development camp in Etna, Calif.
“We don’t know what will happen next summer,” said Parsons, “until we see what happens at the tree lot.”
Yet, good has come from this misfortune.
The church’s tree supplier from Mossyrock, Wash., replaced the stolen trees at a discount.
“He even cut a little bit into next year’s inventory to do it,” said Parsons.
“We’ve had an incredible outpouring from the community,” he said. “People are paying for trees we no longer have. They’re paying for a tree and leaving the lot empty-handed.”
“People,” said Gifford, “are coming down and giving an extra $10-20 to help pay for the stolen trees.”
She said, “It’s so easy to get upset (about the theft), but Pastor Parsons has a wonderful perspective on it. He says, ‘The whole ministry is God’s and He will take care of it.’”
“Things like this are bound to happen,” said Parsons. “We certainly don’t think of ourselves as targets, as some news reporters have stated. Look, God has a billion options. What starts off not looking so good can end up (being not so bad).
“People are responding on our behalf. Goodwill is paying dividends on the trees that were lost. And our message goes out further.
“(When I first learned of the missing trees), I said, ‘Let this become a good thing.’
“Boy, has it ever!” said Parsons. “Good will is not dead.”
Local tree-lot owners who have been approached to buy trees that may have been stolen, or anyone knowing who took the Christmas trees should notify the Woodinville Police Department.