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    Knights in Wisconsin have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities through 50 years of Christmas tree sales

    By Andrew Fowler 12/14/2020
    Knights from Abbot Pennings Council 3955 set up their Christmas tree sale in De Pere, Wis. (Image courtesy Pete Nordeen)

    For more than 50 years, the Knights of Columbus Abbot Pennings Council 3955 Christmas Tree Sale has been a tradition in De Pere, Wis. To residents and travelers, it’s a tradition of selecting the best tree in order to place as the centerpiece in their homes for the holidays.

    To the council, it’s a tradition of charity.

    Due to the success of the Christmas tree sales, the council have been able to donate more than $300,000 to local families in need, parishes, Catholic churches and local charities, including St. John’s Homeless Shelter in Green Bay, De Pere Christian Outreach, St. Vincent de Paul and Freedom House Ministries. Last year alone, the Knights raised nearly $19,000 from the sale.

    It’s all part of the Knights’ larger efforts to keep Christ in Christmas.

    “We certainly believe keeping Christ in Christmas is one of the most important things,” said John Mueller, a Knight from the council who served as chairman of the Christmas tree sales for 20 years.

    The Keep Christ in Christmas initiative calls on Knights and their families to promote the true spirit of Christmas in homes, schools, parishes and communities through religious devotions, charity, celebrations and a variety of community and family activities. In addition to the Christmas tree sale, Knights from Abbot Pennings Council 3955 also hand out “Keep Christ in Christmas” signs and display a crèche on a busy intersection in De Pere.

    The Christmas tree sale’s humble origins date to 1968, when Glen Virtues — a Knight from De Pere — cut down his own trees and sold them for charity. Now, the Knights work with local tree growers and sell nearly 800 trees a season from lots on Main Avenue, one of the busiest streets in town. Many Knights are involved, with approximately 150 members from Abbot Pennings Council 3955 assisting in the sale’s set-up.

    “It brings on unity in the council,” Mueller said.

    The sale typically begins the day after Thanksgiving. Within two to three weeks, all of the trees are sold. Although COVID-19 has impacted this year’s sale, it has not put a damper on the Knights’ Christmas cheer or the number of hours they are on they feet helping families find the perfect Christmas tree.

    “Sometimes it’s been as short as 12 days and as long as 18,” Mueller said. “Like this past weekend, we sold over $24,000 worth of trees.”

    The funds raised will be distributed to local charities, food banks, parishes and schools like in Christmases past. And those funds are needed now more than ever — as exemplified by the Knights of Columbus’s Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative, an ongoing response to the pandemic through which Knights are supporting their parishes and communities in safe, socially-distanced ways.

    “This year has been especially tough on many,” said Pete Nordeen, grand knight of Abbot Pennings Council 3955. “With reduced attendance at church services, we have been trying to find individuals and families who need help with bills. Since the Christmas Tree sale funds about 40 percent of our annual budget, it allows us to help more in need this time of the year.”

    But, as Nordeen says, “the Knights’ mission has always been to help those no matter the season.” See the impact of the Knights’ Leave No Neighbor Behind efforts.

    Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. Access Knightline’s monthly archives.. Or, share your story by emailing



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