The members of Boy Scout Troop 2 take regular camping trips and head to the mountains to ski every February. They go backpacking and canoeing everywhere from Catalina Island and Colorado to Minnesota and upstate New York, always learning survival techniques and life lessons along the way.
Their excursions are made possible largely by what happens every December on Montana Avenue, where the local troop runs a Christmas tree lot that has become a lasting holiday tradition in Santa Monica. It’s open for business until the weekend before Christmas.
All proceeds from the tree sales benefit the troop, but organizers say the lot has an even stronger impact on the scores of scouts who work volunteer shifts there throughout the month. Indeed, as they rake in money for the troop, they also develop their skills in business, customer service, organization and time management.
“It’s pretty incredible to see a sixth-grader selling a Christmas tree,” co-coordinator Peter Cohen said. “It’s a great experience for the kids because they learn how to do deal with people and they learn lots of good skills, which is basically what Boy Scouts is about.”
The lot is a major source of income for Troop 2, which has operated a Christmas tree lot for more than four decades. It’s been in its current location at 1517 Montana Ave., between 15th and 16th streets, for more than 30 years, and it’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cohen said the troop each year typically sells more than 800 trees, which range in price from less than $30 to more than $200 depending on size. He added that many customers get their trees from the Troop 2 lot specifically because they want to support local scouts.
“The people who buy from us go there because they love the experience,” he said. “They get their kids around the tree. They take pictures. It’s the opposite of buying a tree online. They want to experience the Boy Scouts selling them the tree.”
The tree lot exemplifies the durability of a troop whose history spans more than 65 years. It has had just two scoutmasters: Keith Monroe, who passed away in 2003 after 42 years at the helm, and current leader Steve Marcy.
The troop has produced more than 320 Eagle Scouts, including 10 this year, and it has represented Santa Monica at national and international events. It meets Monday nights at Lincoln Middle School and usually has between 80 and 100 scouts in grades 6-12.
At the Christmas tree lot, parent volunteers operate the chainsaw and supervise the cash register. But the scouts do everything in between, from assisting with sales and keeping the area clean to helping customers load trees onto their cars and making deliveries.
It takes dozens of volunteers and hundreds of total hours to operate the lot, which is monitored around the clock. The trees come from Noble Mountain Tree Farm in Oregon.
“It’s a lot of work,” Cohen said. “We do a lot of big events, but this is the fundraiser that supports the troop for the entire year.”
Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.