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'Tis the Season

Shivering in the late fall wind one Friday night, Brian Moynihan and his fellow Knights were just waiting for the chance to spread a little holiday cheer.

"People really like the setting here," he said, pointing to the back of a small white church, its parking lot lined with Christmas trees just waiting to be taken home and decorated.

For more than 20 years, members of the Knights of Columbus at Saint Mary's Historic Church on Ox Road have been selling up to 800 Christmas trees, Moynihan said.

"Sometimes, we'll see kids come running out of their cars and playing hide-and-seek in the trees," he said.

Each year, the Knights sell trees to benefit charitable organizations, including Special Olympics, Christmas in April, several food pantries and holiday gift baskets.

"We've been doing this for so long, some people who came here when they were in seventh or eighth grade are now bringing their kids with them," he said.

Last year, Moynihan said he arranged for the church's choir to come out and sing on a Sunday afternoon while people were hunting for the perfect tree.

"A bunch of people stopped looking at the trees and started singing with them," he said, adding that he hopes the choir will return this year.

For first-time volunteer Pete Piscitelli, selling Christmas trees is a fun way to get into the holiday spirit.

"I've learned a lot in the past two hours," he said, his laugh escaping in a cloud of steam. "There's a good group out here, everyone's been very friendly and very helpful. I learned how to cut and tie a tree the right way and the difference between the types of trees."

Chris Brensy has been helping the Knights for five years and enjoys the frigid weather.

"I first did this my senior year of high school for my community service project," he said, bundled up against the cold air. "Brian asks me to come back every year."

When the snow starts to fall, the volunteers sometimes get into snowball fights while waiting for customers, he admitted.

Some volunteers, like Kevin Ryan, return for several years simply to help.

"My brother and I come here to help out the church," he said. "I don't need to do this for any type of requirement, but it gets me in the Christmas spirit."