It’s a perfect partnership that has continued the longstanding tradition of the Mercer Island Community Holiday Tree Lot, said Mercer Trade Inc. (MTI) adviser Jen McLellan.
MTI, a Mercer Island High School student-run company, has joined forces with Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) and Mercer Island Presbyterian Church to once again bring copious Noble, Douglas, Fraser and Nordmann firs onto the Island for residents to purchase and haul back to their homes for the holidays.
Most importantly, 100% of the profits will be placed into MTI and MIYFS’s sturdy hands so they can continue their work in the business realm and provide critical services to Islanders. It’s a hefty dose of community support that this year is taking place in a vast space adjacent to the church parking lot at 3605 84th Ave. SE. The lot’s opening days were Nov. 26-27, and trees will also be sold from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 11.
“What I love about this is that it’s very much like the We Love MI campaign. It’s a partnership of other adults on this Island that wrap these kids up in support,” said McLellan, who added that Laura Oberto, MIYFS Foundation board president, put out the call regarding the lot and people jumped on board to bring it to fruition in a new location.
McLellan’s eager and skilled MTI students have taken charge of all aspects of running the lot. From reeling in about 351 community volunteers to arranging for Hunter Family Farm in Olympia to deliver approximately 800 trees over the course of the event, and all vital tasks in between, the young entrepreneurs are paving their paths for present and future success. Just like the grownups do, the students are working long hours and facing challenges along the way.
Mercer Island High School senior Ashleigh Chapin, MTI’s chief operating officer, said they’ve gone with the flow and turned any tough situations into positives. For example, the students didn’t know they’d have to build stands to lean the trees on, and they also had to wrangle more volunteers to receive some trees from the Hunter crew.
Overall, it’s been a fun and upbeat environment on the tree lot, added Chapin, who helps run MTI alongside chief executive officer Gill MacDonald and chief financial officer Callum Neher.
“This is a great experience to be able to learn and kind of see what actually happens on the management side of business, and just trying to figure out the best and most efficient way to solve all the problems that we’ve been running into,” said Chapin, who may delve into business management or supply chain management in college. “Managing the business is something that I’m passionate about and I love problem solving.”
On the MIYFS side of things, former foundation board president Jody Kris said the department has operated the lot for 6-7 years and appreciates its stellar providers and the community members that furnish support through tree-lot profits. MIYFS’s workers help people of all ages with mental health, grief, medical and financial issues to keep the Island population healthy, she said.
“It’s absolutely a cornerstone of my work that I’ve undertaken in the nonprofit space on Mercer Island, and I’m so glad my family has benefited from some of the services at YFS. It’s a great community treasure,” Kris said.