Decorate for the holidays and support a worthy cause

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By Kirsten Laskey

The Delancey Street Christmas tree lot is a prefect holiday setting.

The lot, which is located next to the Knights of Columbus building off Trinity Drive, has candy-cane light poles and Christmas trees in every size. There are racks of wreaths and even snow on the ground.

The sweetness of the scene goes beyond appearances; there is another aspect beneath the surface that makes this particular Christmas tree lot significant. The proceeds go toward a worthy cause.

The lot has come to town for more than 10 years. It set up shop the day after Thanksgiving and will continue to offer bushy green Evergreens and ribbon adorned wreaths through Dec. 24 and deliveries are available.

All the proceeds go toward Delancey Street, an organization that takes in substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and those who hit rock bottom and helps them assume new identities as teachers, contractors, truck divers, etc.

Colt Heemann, manager of the Christmas tree lot and moving department, said Delancey Street was founded in San Francisco in 1971. Today, there are facilities in Los Angeles, Greensboro, North Carolina, Brewster, N.Y., and Espanola.

The Espanola facility currently has 110 people enrolled in its program, he said.

Once in the program, the participants make their own life changes.

There is no staff and no funding.

Rather, participants roll up their sleeves to rebuild their communication, self esteem as well as focusing on behavior.

 They also work hard. To raise money, Heemann said Delancey Street provides moving services both in state and throughout the country.

The New Mexico facility also offers catering services and runs a shop that produces hand-made ceramics, sand sculptures, cutting boards, custom-made furniture and refinishing for upholstery and wood.

It’s important to note that all these programs are self-sufficient; no money is taken from taxpayers or from the government.

Heemann said in the past the participants often depended on the community or taxpayers to pay their way. Now, Delancey Street helps them “make our own way in life.”

Which is why projects like the Christmas tree lot is so important.

“We don’t accept any money from the government so the only way we can continue to help the community and provide people from New Mexico the opportunity to change their lives is if the community supports us,” Heemann said.

It’s not all work, however, at the lot. Workers have enjoyed helping Los Alamos residents get their Christmas trees.

“I enjoy working with the people,” Cindy Serna, the cashier, said.

Heemann added, “My favorite part about it is we make money to keep the doors to the organization open.” He also enjoys having the opportunity to tell people about Delancey.

People seem to be listening, Heemann said more than 500 trees are expected to be sold this year.