By STEVEN NALLEY
There’s a place in downtown Starkville where money for families in need grows on Christmas trees.
Southern Green Keepers is selling Christmas trees on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in front of Rick’s Cafe to benefit the CloverStreet Christmas Assistance Program, which donates Christmas trees, toys for children and other Christmas goods to families who cannot afford them.
The location is open on weekdays from 5-9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.
Matt Pea, a landscape architect, designer and estimator with SGK, said 100 percent of the proceeds generated will go to CloverStreet. He said this is the first time SGK has held a charity event for Starkville, and it is the only company selling Christmas trees for charity in town.
“This year we wanted to give back to the community,” Pea said. “We wanted it to be something different that no one’s done in Starkville before, and I think we hit it off with the Christmas trees.”
Pea said CloverStreet is administrated by Starkville Police Department officer Freddie Barkley. Last year, he said, Barkley was able to “give Christmas” to seven families, and SGK’s goal is to double the total to 14 this year.
“Basically ... he goes from church to church and gets the churches’ applications for people that are in need for that season,” Pea said. “He will compile a list himself, and once he gets all his donations and everything together, he goes out for the Christmas service program and gives the kids toys, Christmas trees — stuff like that.”
Sonny Trimm, accounts manager with SGK, said this is also SGK’s first time selling Christmas trees in any capacity. He said if SGK continues selling them each year, the company will continue selling them for charity instead of turning it into a commercial enterprise.
“We’re not looking to make any money off of this whatsoever,” Trimm said. “We’d love to see it happen year after year.
“This was a shot in the dark this first time,” Trimm added. “We talked about it for many years, but just never pulled the trigger on it. We didn’t know if it would sell.”
Pea said he, Trimm and SGK owner Michael Everett all came up with the idea to sell Christmas trees for charity together. He said the location has been open since Nov. 21, and SGK has sold 25 out of its stock of 120 trees.
Pea said he was grateful to Rick’s Cafe for providing the space and to Cumulus Radio for matching them at 50 percent of expenses to advertise on the radio.
“We came up with a model,” Pea said. “We planned out the lot, got it set up and figured out what varieties of trees we wanted. Then from there, we figured out the quantities of how many trees we thought we could sell and what we were going to be able to raise for the charity.”
Three different types of trees are available, Pea said: Frasier firs, Virginia pines and Leyland cypresses. Winter pansies are also available for $10 per flat, he said, and trees range from $35-185.
“The Virginia pines and Leyland cypresses are locally grown out of Mississippi,” Pea said. “They’re out of Walnut Grove ... from Rosebud Tree Farm. The Frasier firs are from Roan Valley, N.C.”
One of SGK’s customers on Thursday was Paul Cheek, who bought an 11-foot tree.
“These guys do a great job,” Cheek said. “You can find really good, quality trees here.”