Scouts BSA Troop 695 of Eden Prairie’s Christmas tree and wreath lot at 13195 Pioneer Trail, next to Speedway, and the new addition at Cummins-Phipps-Grill House just down the street, are bustling with more than just holiday cheer.
The tree lots are the epicenter of fundraising efforts that turn pine needles and festive spirit into life-changing adventures for local Scouts.
Dave Meyer, the tree lot coordinator for Troop 695, explained that proceeds from the sale directly benefit the Scouts working there, contributing to funding their participation in various Scouting activities.
“They raise money that goes directly toward their programming, which includes summer camp but also includes options for monthly campouts and activities,” said Meyer, who also serves as the troop’s assistant scoutmaster. “From a larger standpoint, they can participate in national adventures that we call High Adventure programs once they turn 14. And those are the big ones.”
These programs offer a range of experiences, from canoeing in the Boundary Waters to challenging treks at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, and adventures at Sea Base in the Florida Keys. Each of these experiences is designed to develop essential life skills in Scouts, such as leadership and problem-solving.
“The program is teaching them confidence, it’s teaching them to solve problems, it’s teaching them to give back to the community,” Meyer said. “Most activities they do have a service component to them as well. We’re always looking for opportunities to do service projects. And when they get to the point where they’re working on their Eagle project, reaching their highest rank, that’s 100% service project.”
That’s one reason Troop 695 expanded its tree-selling operation to the Cummins-Phipps-Grill House, 13600 Pioneer Trail. Meyer said that the Eden Prairie Historical Society invited the troop to join the annual holiday traditions at the house, which include Santa’s North Pole Experience. Previously, this site was used by the Eden Prairie Optimist Club for its tree sales.
“We like that location a lot because it offers us numerous opportunities to collaborate on service projects throughout the year,” Meyer added. “We’ve started the process of identifying needs on that property that we can do service projects and potential Eagle projects as well.”
When it comes to the proximity of the two sales sites, Meyer observed, “It’s been working out pretty well. We support each other. While our primary location (near Speedway) has the best visibility, the traffic at the new site has also been quite good.”
Business has been booming. Meyer anticipates selling all their trees and closing up shop by Sunday, Dec. 10. But spreading the message about the Scouts and Troop 695, based out of Prairie Lutheran Church, 11000 Blossom Road, Eden Prairie, never ends.
“We’re always recruiting new youth,” he said.
Troop 695, which includes both boys and girls, has shown resilience and adaptability, particularly in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite the pandemic’s impact, we’ve continued to grow, expanding our program to include a girls’ troop,” Meyer said. “In total, we have 40 active Scouts. In past years, it would have been a lot higher than that. We’re just trying to get the message out, reach as many parents and kids as possible, and keep the program going and growing.”
Scouts working at the tree lot last weekend, like Sam W., who took part in an expedition to Philmont, attest to the value of these experiences.
“I enjoyed Philmont,” Sam said. “It was an awesome time, and I couldn’t have gone without the tree lot. It’s this giant mountain range, and you hike. (The trip) can be seven, nine, or 12 days of varying difficulties. It was me and eight other scouts from our troop. The highlight was (hiking) Mount Baldy. We had to wake up at 4:30 a.m., get all our stuff on, and leave by 5 a.m. to be up there and back down.”
The lot, staffed with Scouts weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., offers self-service when nobody is there. Customers can choose their trees and pay via Venmo or check.
Between assisting customers, Scout Lilja C. talked about what she liked about working at the tree lot.
“I like the flexibility,” she said. “You can work on the trees, and then a minute later, you do cashbox and then help put the tree on the car. It’s chaotic, but in a good way.”
To learn more about the troop, visit the EP Troop 695 Facebook page.
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