Denise Barnes interviewed Linda Williams, organizer of this year’s Holiday Greens Sale at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown.
Question: For decades, St. John’s has hosted an annual Holiday Greens Sale. What prompted the change from a hodgepodge of Christmas goodies to a more streamlined offering of wreaths and boxwoods?
Answer: I saw the beginning of a trend with custom orders being placed for holiday items. The craftspeople who make these items know well in advance how many to make and there’s an element of predictability. It struck me as an idea that was worth experimenting with, in terms of putting a Christmas catalog together and taking orders in advance before the holidays were upon us.
We met with Rev. Margaret Graham last summer to talk about the idea and she thought it was worth a try. There were two things that were very appealing about a Christmas catalog of wreaths and boxwoods we could control our expenses and still bring the parish together to make the wreaths and keep a communal spirit.
My husband took the pictures, and the printers made up a catalog beyond my wildest dreams. We mailed out about 1,200 to church members and other neighbors and friends in the area people who know about the church and support us. Then, we hoped and prayed that people would buy them. So far, we have received orders for about 85 balsam wreaths, about 35 to 40 candy wreaths, and about 25 miniature boxwood trees.
Q: What kind of response did the Christmas catalog receive overall?
A: It’s been very positive. People loved the catalog with the various kinds of wreaths to choose from, and we’ve displayed samples in the parish house the same models we created for our brochure.
Oftentimes, a visual helps people decide what they would like and what works best for them. The response has just been great. They like ordering something out of a catalog. And, we give patrons the ability to charge on a credit card, which is a real plus.
Q: How will the money raised from the Christmas wreaths and boxwood trees be used?
A: The funds will go directly into the parish’s budget, which supports numerous ministries in the community, such as Columbia Road Health Services, Georgetown Senior Center, Manna Inc., Meals on Wheels, the Presiding Bishop’s Fund where money will be sent to help the people in Afghanistan and the Resurrection Fund for victims of the September 11 tragedy, to name a few.
Q: When will you and St. John volunteers begin putting the wreaths together?
A: We started on Monday, when all of the fresh green leaves were delivered to the church. Then we divided up all of the supplies so that when the team arrived, they would be set up and ready to go. We have a lot of retirees who volunteered to help out, but we also have many young professionals and young parents. So, I wanted everything to be as efficient as possible for everyone.
We have four wreath designs this season: the dried fruit, the holly and juniper, the cones and berries, and a candy wreath.
Our Virginia boxwood trees stand 18 inches tall and each is arranged in a moist floral oasis in its own plastic dish. The boxwoods are decorated with miniature apples and pears or an assortment of holiday wooden and glass ornaments. Each tree is then topped with a red-and-gold bow and streamers.
Q: When will the wreaths and the miniature boxwood be ready for pickup?
A: On Friday, Nov. 30th, from noon until 6 p.m. and Saturday morning from 9 a.m. until noon, that’s when people will come to the parish hall to pick up their wreaths and boxwoods. It should be lots of fun, since the parish house will be filled with the wonderful fragrances of balsam and juniper. Plus, we’ll have Christmas music going, hot cider, homemade cookies and lots of good cheer to thank people for supporting us.
Q: Who decided on the designs for the wreaths?
A: It was really my responsibility to come up with design ideas. I had to keep in mind materials that were easy to find. Secondly, I had to find things that were easy to attach to the wreaths. Over the years, in doing the old Greens Sale, we collected many ideas on wreath designs. In the old days, we sat a person down and let them come up with their own wreath design. I was just trying to come up with enough ideas so that the wreaths would be beautiful and easy to sell.
Q: How difficult is it to organize an event of this type?
A: It takes a lot of planning and lots of shopping. In this case, because we didn’t know how many fruit and berry wreaths we would sell, we bought items during the summer.
The next part of this type of project is finding volunteers who like to make a lot of bows at home. The other part involves walking you’re always looking down to see what would look nice on a wreath among the cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices. That’s the creative side of it.
For some people, having a model in front of them may take the creativity away. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I’m just giving them a model to work with [and] I want my elves [the volunteers] to put some of themselves into the designs. Although I understand that we can’t deviate too much from the models that were featured in our Christmas catalog.
Q: Where did you get your flair with flowers?
A: I’ve been a floral arranger for churches since the early 1970s and I just love flower arranging. I have a business of my own, Linda B. Williams Interiors in Kensington. I do custom window treatments, and color and texture play an integral part of the design process. So, flower arrangement is something that comes naturally. For 30 years, I worked at Bell Atlantic and never got half the kick out of working there as I have making wreaths for St. John’s.
Q: Can people buy wreaths if they didn’t place an order?
A: We may be able to fill some orders. But I would like to suggest just calling the church and getting on our mailing list for next year’s Greens Sale.