SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Friday was opening day for the annual Christmas tree farm fundraiser at Spokane Valley's Hutton Settlement Children's Home, with every dollar that the sale makes going toward the historic orphanage's educational programs.
The annual event has been taking place for decades, but this year the need is even greater because of the pandemic.
For Danielle, 17, working the farm is one of her favorite aspects of living at the home, because she knows how important the fundraiser is for her future.
"Being here, and getting know a lot of the staff and the kids and having them being here, supporting me of what everything I go through and stuff," said Danielle.
She has lived at the Hutton Settlement for five years. This year, her job is to help manage the other children.
"My favorite part is just kind of being out here, helping people out who want to buy trees and how I could just help the tree farm, this year [will] be better," she added.
Director of Community Engagement and Stewardship Jessie Laughery said the pandemic has greatly impacted their funding.
"While our income has gone down, our services have needed to ramp up because just like many households across the world, we've had kids, you know, all day every day for school," Laughery said. "So that means just increased services and increased costs."
The settlement makes most of its money from an endowment of over 21 commercial real estate properties. With the pandemic affecting tenants' ability to pay, she said the kids are the ones suffering.
"That rental income is what funds the operations of our children's home," she added. "That's how we put food on the table."
The pandemic has also changed how the tree farm will work.
Customers are no longer able to cut their own trees, a popular attribute in previous years. They are not allowing anything that would require someone to go indoors, such as bathrooms. They also do not have poinsettias.
To enter, customers must be wearing a masks and they are asking everyone to keep 6 feet distance from each other.
"We understand that this could very well be the only thing that's available for families to come to safely this year," Laughery said. "So we're going to make sure that happens, but please respect those precautions because we want to keep our campus and kids safe, too."
There are four different species of fir trees at the farm. They have Noble, Nordmann, Grand and Sub-Alpine, a wild tree from Mt. Spokane.
Eight-hundred of these trees are now needing a home. Garlands, wreaths and gift baskets are also being prepared by the kids.
Laughery said by supporting their tree farm, the kids will be able to continue their gardening program, woodworking activities and other outdoor education.
"It's really nice because you have people who care for you, and they're willing to be there," said Danielle. "You get to know other girls who, kind of, went through different experiences and all that, so it's great."
The farm is open from Nov. 27 to Dec. 19, or until all the trees have been sold. Customers can attend Monday through Friday from noon until 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If the rest of the sale goes as well as Friday, they said it may only take a couple weeks.
Find more information on their Facebook page. Their location is below.