The Prime Minister's Address to the Nation on Monday 4th January, which put the country into lockdown, was a devastating blow to the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection whose organisers had worked their way through making the Collection Covid-secure against all the restrictions listed for Tier 4.
Faced with the responsibilities of keeping the team of over 150 volunteers and anyone with whom they might have contact safe, they took the decision to postpone the the 21st Annual Christmas Tree Collection, which was scheduled to take place on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th January and would have been the first major fundraising event for Cheshire East Hospice since the 2020 Christmas Tree Collection.
Co-Organiser Richard Raymond said "The postponement was a commitment that when Government advice changed we would indeed re-organise the Collection. Anyone who had booked for a collection was offered the chance to have a refund but of the 6700 households on the original list only a handful took this decision meaning that our Hospice was able to benefit from the enormous generosity of the community at this difficult time."
When the Government Roadmap was published, organisers felt that Step 2, when many premises were allowed to open, was an indication that they could safely re-organise the Collection. They gave themselves a week's grace and alerted previous customers that they needed to re-book if they still had a tree for them to collect.
During the week of the 19th April up to five vans each manned with two people went out to collect 1100 trees. A team of just over 20 volunteers along with the hospice fundraising staff were involved in this.
A recycling operation was also set up in conjunction with ANSA Environmental Services so that all the recovered trees would end up as a soil improver after the mulching and composting process.
The final 20 trees were mopped up by the organisers Richard Raymond and Pete Chapman on Friday 30th April.
Richard Raymond commented "So our pledge to collect trees was honoured! The sight of brown dead old Christmas trees being dragged along the pavements at the end of April in that glorious sunny spell of weather did cause a degree of bemusement to onlookers!"
The final sum of money raised from the 2021 Collection is now £150,000.
Co-organiser Richard Raymond added "This is a record total for the Collection and shows just how wonderfully the community supports our local Hospice. As it was our Twenty-First Collection, we can honestly say that we have Come-of-Age with a bang!
"And if anyone does still have a dead old Christmas tree in their front garden, please just keep it for another 8 months and we'll be around again to collect it!!"
Photo: Heather Chapman and son Andy; the last tree with (from L-R) Pete Chapman, Andy Chapman in van and Richard Raymond.