Dec. 25 2018 12:00 AM

It’s been a holiday tradition for the last 15 years.


Some needy families in Baltimore County, Maryland, have received a nice Christmas present thanks to a local landscape company, according to a story by Cody Boteler in The Baltimore Sun.

But they’re just the latest recipients of Groundshog Lawn and Landscape’s generosity. Donating trees to families who can’t afford one has been an annual tradition for the Coates family, the company’s owners, for the last 15 years, according to the story.

Southwest Emergency Services, a local aid organization, facilitates the donations. SWES’ Director Betty Okonski told the reporter that she’s seen grown men and women cry after being given a Christmas tree for free. “They can’t afford a tree. And to be able to have a tree for their family, they’re so thankful.”

This year Groundshog donated 40 trees to SWES. “This is awesome, what they do for the families,” Okonski was reported as saying. “They [the families] would not be able to have a live tree otherwise.”

Joe Coates says he’s more than happy to donate the trees. “I appreciate the opportunity, frankly, to be able to do it,” he told Boteler, adding, “Every little kid deserves a Christmas tree.”

The loss of potential profit, about $40 per tree, “is not significant,” Jessica Coates, Joe Coates' wife and the office manager at Groundshogs is reported as saying.

Groundshog doesn’t farm fir trees; it purchases them at wholesale from other suppliers, then sells them at four locations in Maryland. A portion of the proceeds goes to St. John’s United Church of Christ in Catonsville and the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department.

While selling Christmas trees might not seem like physically demanding work, Joe Coates said it can be — being outdoors in cold weather and lifting and wrapping trees can wear on a person.

“It’s a grind,” he told Boteler. “But it’s definitely a ton of fun. For the month of December, there’s no other work I’d rather do.”

The Coates’ children — Jackson, 16, and Peyton, 13 — along with some Groundshog employees, handle most of the work during the Christmas season. Coates was quoted as saying he has “a bunch of people” from within the business helping out at the four Christmas tree lots.

As the holiday season progresses, it’s not just SWES clients that benefit from Groundshog’s charity work. Jessica Coates told the reporter that the company will cut deals with families that don’t have a lot of disposable income so that they can put a Christmas tree up in their homes. “Nobody doesn’t get a tree because of the money,” she said.

Joe Coates told the story’s writer that he doesn’t like to think about the financial aspect of donating trees; he prefers to be “a humble guy” and “just do it.”

“I don’t even want to involve any money in it, you know?” Coates reportedly said. “It’s my opportunity to give back, especially to a community that’s given me so much.”