The pastor of Key Biscayne’s Community Church says he’s seeing a blessing even after a vendor failed to deliver 450 trees the small congregation was hoping to use for their annual Christmas fundraiser.
“We have had so much support,” said Rev. Dennis Eastling, who said the sales of the trees pay for the churches’ ministries both locally and in places like Haiti and India. “It’s uniting the community even more, and I’m seeing Key Biscayne from a different perspective.”
Eastling said the church paid $34,500 for the trees, and has been told it will get a refund, although the funds have yet to arrive. The church did report the matter to the Key Biscayne Police Department, which in turn assigned a detective.
Chief Frank Sousa said the tree non-delivery is not being treated as a criminal matter, adding he was told the refund would take place by Wednesday. The department did contact police in Cedar Grove, N.J., where the vendor is located, for assistance.
Eastling said the arrangement had been for the trees to be picked up in Canada and then transported to Key Biscayne as in years past, but that the vendor didn’t answer texts and calls as the Nov. 21 delivery date drew closer. The church had already placed large tents on its property in anticipation of the trees.
“It’s kind of like getting hit in the gut,” said Eastling, who said he felt the tree trouble was letting the community down. The loss of the fundraiser could cost the congregation as much as $50,000 in lost income, he said.
But then, he said, another local tree vendor offered to help provide 50 trees for sale starting this week, so at least some trees could go to island homes.
“People have asked to start ‘Go Fund Mes’,” Eastling said, but he wanted to wait to see if the refund comes through. He also said he hoped the event would focus the community on the true meaning of the holiday.
“Christmas is not about trees,” he said. “It’s about what Jesus did for us, and God becoming man.”
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.