By BROOKE WANSER
For many families, buying a tree at Christmas is an annual tradition. Gateway Church in Franklin is building on that practice by establishing a tradition of giving back.
For the 4th year, the church is participating in a program called Buy a Tree, Change a Life, in which church members will sell premium Christmas trees.
Dr. Charlie Weir, the head pastor of Gateway, said the church became involved in the program after his fellow pastor started the project at his Miami church to help a couple with the cost of adopting.
Weir said that church raised $25,000 by selling Christmas trees in Miami that year.
Now the ministry has evolved: through the Church of God network, 38 churches in 12 states are involved in the ministry, which raises funds with the goal of helping children globally and locally.
For the global mission, Weir said 85 percent of funds raised will be given to PCL, a nonprofit organization based in Southeast Tennessee with a mission to break the cycle of poverty in Asian Pacific communities. The funding is specifically for their Cambodian orphanage; orphans receive shelter, food and higher education opportunities.
Weir said the rest of the funds raised will be split between three local charities.
Fresh Start is a Columbia organization which helps children whose lives have been affected by parental substance abuse.
Money will be donated to the purchase of three iMac computers for children’s use at the Natchez Social community center in Franklin.
And funds will also go to the Well in Spring Hill, which provides Jetpacks, or weekend meals, for children who receive reduced or free lunches at school.
Weir said the local charities were chosen with help from members of the congregation. “I believe good ideas bubble up from the congregation and not just from the staff,” he said. “Our mission is to develop spiritually influential people.”
The trees are Fraser firs, driven in by farmers from North Carolina, and range from 6 feet to 13 feet tall.
After selling out 350 trees last year, Weir said the church has purchased 400 this year.
Weir said the trees should arrive Friday night; sales will begin by Sunday, and will continue until the trees are gone.
Last year, the organization raised a total of $454,480; Weir said the goal for this year is to surpass $500,000.
While some other churches sell trees at Christmastime, Weir said this particular ministry is special. “There is nothing else like this in Williamson County,” he said.
Saturday/Sunday: 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
Weekdays: 4-8 p.m.
1288 Lewisburg Pike, Franklin, TN 37064