Four years ago, she volunteered to serve as chairman of the annual Christmas tree and wreath sale. St. Raphael has been holding the sale for seven years, after it was able to take over the franchise of a local seller who got his trees from a quality grower in Wautoma.
Radley says the annual tree and wreath sale has been “marvelous” for St. Raphael’s; not just for the money it raises for the parish, but more importantly for the social contacts it has created between parishioners and the larger Oshkosh community.
“You see families come to shop,” she says. “They have a wonderful time. They bring the kids and we serve hot chocolate. It’s also a really neat place for our parishioners to come and work. Many of them come as a family. They really seem to enjoy it. It’s a good social event on both sides, both seller and purchaser.”
Radley says planning for each year’s sale begins in June when they decide how many wreaths and trees will be ordered for that year. Radley gets help in determining prices based on size and type of tree and diameter of the wreaths. By hand, she makes up all the sale tags for the approximately 300 trees and 100 wreaths.
About a week before Thanksgiving, the merchandise arrives.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Shary Radley
Parish: St. Raphael, Oshkosh
Favorite saint: Jude Thaddeus
Words to live by: “We must not only give what we have; we must also give what we are.” — Desire-Joseph Mercier
“We have a sign-up board in the gathering space at church about three weeks before that,” Radley says. People volunteer to help set up the tree yard and put up fencing and lighting ahead of time.
“That’s an eight-hour day to get all of that work done,” Radley says.
Others volunteer to climb aboard the truck when the merchandise arrives and start handing the trees down. Others tag them, others carry the trees and wreaths to their sale spots and others help during sale hours.
“We had a beautiful day when the trees came,” Radley says. “It’s so fortunate to have such a great parish. The volunteers come out when we need them. Within two hours, we had everything done.”
Volunteering for the parish has brought Radley many rewards, she says.
“It’s a fun way for me to meet new people,” she says. “I haven’t been a member very long. In a parish this large you don’t see all the people here, so it’s neat to find out who is among us. It’s also a good stewardship way to promote what St. Raphael’s is about.”
During the sale, which runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the second weekend in December, Radley figures she puts in about 100 volunteer hours.
“I like to check daily on the volunteers, introduce myself and say, ‘Thank you for coming,’ ” she says. “It’s a neat project and a get-together. There is the stewardship aspect and being a parish family. We make a little profit and can put it into whatever parish fund needs it at that time.”
Volunteering brings special dividends in many ways, Radley says.
“It’s a fulfillment you feel,” she says. “It’s fun. You are building relationships. The people I volunteer with, I consider them good friends. You get connected, form those relationships, and they last. It’s contagious. it spreads.”
Volunteering also builds relationships on a wider scale, she says.
“It’s that social interaction between our parishioners and the community at large,” she says. “That gets to be a positive thing for St. Raphael’s.”