Photo by Dermot Connolly
Worth Lions Tony Zartler (from left), Greg Mazak and Dan Feltz “hold on” to the some of their last Christmas trees available in the Lions tree lot at the corner of 116 th Street and Harlem Avenue in Worth on Sunday. Hundreds of trees were sold very quickly this year, with all the money going toward programs to help local people in need.
By Dermot Connolly
The COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed many holiday traditions this year, but the Worth Lions Club wouldn’t let it stop them from selling Christmas trees — something they have been doing to raise money for charitable causes for more than 60 years.
As usual, the tree lot beside Waterfall Park at 116 th and Harlem opened the day after Thanksgiving, and sales have been so brisk that there were only a handful left on Monday night.
“ We should have these all sold by Friday,” said Greg Mazak, who was working at the tree lot on Sunday with fellow Lions Tony Zartler and Dan Feltz.
The lot is open from 3 to 8 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. while supplies last.
Mazak said the club found it harder to import trees from Nova Scotia his year, due to the restrictions imposed at the Canadian border because of the pandemic.
“ But we still sold hundreds of trees. Our broker worked wonders to find them for us,” said Mazak.
The club also donated the trees that are on display at the Worth Veterans Memorial site at 111 th and Harlem Avenue, which is decorated for the holidays as usual.
The only thing missing on the lot this year was wreaths.
“ We just weren’t able to get them,” Mazak said.
As they sat in front of a firepit, waiting for their next customer on Sunday, Mazak and Zartler said they were happy that the tree sales were able to go ahead, because so many other programs and events had to be suspended. All the money raised goes back into the community, including providing holiday food baskets for residents in need. That program is coordinated in conjunction with the Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post 991 Auxiliary.
The Worth Lions also hold an annual luncheon for veterans living in the Hines VA Hospital, but having such a gathering was impossible this year.
The Lions traditionally help people with vision problems, providing glasses and diagnostic services when needed. But with schools holding classes remotely for most of the year, Mazak expressed concern that vision problems may not be caught as early as possible.
“ Teachers are often the ones who first notice that students are having problems seeing. But that is hard to catch now, when they are only seeing them on computer screens,” he said.
All the local Lions tree lots were selling out of their stock quicker than usual this year. The Palos Lions sold their 500 trees by last weekend, and the Orland Park Lions Club lot at 147 th and Ravinia Avenue was almost empty on Monday night.
“ Everyone is looking forward to Christmas and they want to make it as normal as possible,” said Mazak. “We are proud that families keep coming to us, generation after generation. That didn’t change this year.”
“ We deeply appreciate their loyalty because it allows us to keep giving back to the community,” said Zartler.
“We will see what next year brings. With the vaccine coming now, I am sure it is going to be a better year for everybody. We all want things to get back to normal. Not a new normal either — the old normal,” said Mazak.