Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Kenny Thai, 16, carries a Christmas tree to a customer’s car.

Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating

Kenny Thai, 16, carries a Christmas tree to a customer’s car.

The weather outside is frightful, but these boys forego the warmth indoors to help Portlanders find the perfect Christmas tree.

For 33 years, volunteers from Boy Scouts Troop 351 have pedaled locally grown trees from the St. Ignatius Church parking lot to raise money for Scout outings. A portion of proceeds is also donated to the Southeast Portland parish, which has held the troop charter since 1975.

On a recent night, as evening temperatures dipped into the 20s, 12-year-old Thayer Krantz warmed his hands with hot cocoa and shuffled his feet to stay warm. This was the third of five shifts he will cover to pay for his Scouting outings in 2014.  

Scouts also earn salesmanship merit badges for their service at the lot.

When customers arrive, Thayer asks a few questions so he can help people choose between Noble, Grand and Douglas firs. If they’re not sure what type they would like, he tries to get a sense of their decorating style and the size of the space where the tree will stand. If they’re still not sure what they want, he shares his own perspective:  “My favorite are Noble firs. They can fit the most ornaments.”

Stanley Koudjrakor, 12, has a slightly different approach – humor.

“To be funny, I ask: ‘Would you like to buy a used car?’” said the energetic Scout. “They always say, ‘No, thank you,’ so then I offer them a tree.”

Stanley and his family are parishioners at St. Ignatius. They discovered the troop after last year’s Scout Sunday Mass, held annually at St. Ignatius on the first Sunday of February.

St. Ignatius sponsors three different units under the Scout umbrella. Boy Scouts serves boys who are 11-18 years. First- through fifth-grade boys are eligible to join Cub Scouts, and boys and girls ages 14-21 can participate in the Venture Crew.

Scoutmaster Mike Benson was a part of the troop as a boy and now leads the team of 40 children. He is a St. Ignatius School alumnus (graduating class of 1990); three of his own  children are now enrolled at the Catholic school. Two of his boys are Scouts; a daughter is in the Venture Crew.

Selling approximately 1,000 trees each year, the troop generates enough money to send participants on monthly outings, as well as multi-day summer camp adventures. Children develop outdoor skills, nature appreciation, character and leadership. Troop masters also try to instill dedication to service, and a sense of achievement.

Manuel Fox, 11, is a Scout and student at Holy Family School. On his first shift at the lot, he had handily sold three trees shortly after the operation opened.

Manuel knows that picking a Christmas tree is often part of beloved annual holiday traditions. Every year, members of his family gather to decorate their tree together. One person is chosen each year to place to the start at the top.

This year it’s Manuel’s turn.

To find out more about Troop 351, call 503-810-4392, log on to troop351.org or email [email protected].