Joe Coates, who owns Groundshog and now lives in Catonsville, said he’s more than happy to donate the trees to SWES. The loss of potential profit from donating the trees “is not significant,” Coates said. His wife and office manager, Jessica Coates, said the loss of profit was maybe about $40 per tree.
“I appreciate the opportunity, frankly, to be able to do it,” he said. “Every little kid deserves a Christmas tree.”
Groundshog doesn’t farm trees, but purchases them at a wholesale cost from other suppliers and then sells them at four locations in Maryland, including two locations in southwestern Baltimore County.
In Catonsville and Arbutus, a portion of proceeds from the tree sales goes toward the organizations that allow Coates and his family to sell trees: in Catonsville, that’s St. John’s United Church of Christ; in Arbutus, it’s the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department.
Selling Christmas trees might not seem like physically demanding work, but Coates said it can be — being outdoors in cold weather, lifting and wrapping trees, can wear on a person.
“It’s a grind,” Coates said. “But it’s definitely a ton of fun. For the month of December, there’s no other work I’d rather do.”
The Coates’ children — Jackson, 16, and Peyton, 13 — along with some employees from the Groundshog landscaping business, handle most of the work during the Christmas season. Coates said he has “a bunch of people” from within the business helping out at the four Christmas tree lots.
As the holiday season progresses, it’s not just SWES clients that benefit from Groundshog’s charity work. Jessica Coates said they’ll cut deals so families without a lot of disposable income can still put a Christmas tree up in their home.
“Nobody doesn’t get a tree because of the money,” she said.
OCAMocha, a community space and coffee shop originally slated to open in Arbutus over the summer, has been delayed until spring 2019 because of a drawn-out permitting and approvals process, according to UMBC officials.