The Words of the Sayre Family
December 13, 1998
Twenty Five years ago I spent the Christmas season and up until mid January in Seattle fundraising and preparing for Father's 21 City Speaking Tour. I had come from a small and wonderful community - The Unified Family in Missoula, Montana where I had joined in August of 73. I had visions of buying land with these people in Montana and building an ideal community. Was I in for a surprise. This was my equivalent of a small town kid hitting the beaches at Normandy - in a spiritual kind of way.
Our State Leader and Mobil Unit Commander (don't you just love those titles!) had a brainstorm to sell Christmas trees to help pay our state's contribution to this momentous providential moment. Being a pretty new member, but more worldly (I had a job and some money) than most of the others and a pretty savvy outside kind of guy, they put me in charge of researching where to buy trees from, how much they cost and where to sell them. I found them at a wholesale price of $2.00/tree, made plans to purchase them, arranged the trucks and made plans to drive to Kansas to sell trees and make a bundle. Kansas, with no trees seemed like a good idea to me and my leaders agreed as well. I picked up the trees and as we were loading them into the trucks, we received word from Rev. Vincenz that we were all to come to Seattle, trees and all.
Well, if you've ever been to the Northwest, you know there is no shortage of trees. Also, it rains ALL THE TIME in the winter and we did not have any places prepared to sell the trees. We forged ahead anyway. Myself and a few other brothers drove all night to Seattle, slept a few hours and upon awakening were told to go out and find places to sell. Here's a map, $20, good luck! We headed out in a few cars, found a few gas stations, etc. negotiated agreements with the owners on the spot. The next day, we were dropped off at our places with our trees, no money, no provisions made as to where we would stay and told to sell some trees, find a place to stay and fend for ourselves for a few days. See you later. Luckily I had good camping and rain gear, but I think some of the others suffered more than I did.
Well, I was at a kind of motel across the street from a fast-food restaurant. The owner of the motel felt sorry for me and let me sleep in his furnace room., for free. It was warm and cozy, if a little noisy. I scrounged some material, made some signs and began selling my trees. I sang Christmas carols, made enough to eat, but not much more. The brother who dropped me off, Lornezo Gaztanaga visited me once or twice in the first 4-5 days I was there, he was frantically looking for better places to sell, trying to visit the other sellers and negotiating with Rev. Vincenz about our plight.
We moved to a few new locations the second week and did better, but with only a week to go before x-mas, we still had over 1,200 trees left. I spent a lot of cold and lonely days and nights somewhere in Seattle, mostly in the rain, singing carols and other songs (a few Dan F. songs) to myself. I did have some good experiences with prayer during this time.
The regional leader at the time, Regis Hanna finally went on TV and shared the story about the "youth group" raising money for their Day of Hope campaign trying to sell trees and also came up with the idea of selling trees door to door. I think it was him anyway. So, we loaded up our vans, cars and trucks and drove through neighborhoods with carols blasting from the radio and cassette players, with brothers running from door to door, trees in hand selling and bringing interested parties to our truck. I remember carrying those trees door to door, up and down steps, in the rain and thinking, these people are crazy. We could have made a bundle in Kansas!
After x-mas I gave away tickets during the day, until around 9 PM and then put up posters until 2 AM, which would have been torn down during the day. I liked roaring around Seattle, with another brother and playing guerrilla warrior.
Just prior to the speeches, Regis appointed me to help prepare the dressing rooms and seating for the speeches. I guess this was a kind of promotion. I did not have a clue as to what to do, but listened to him, was briefed by Mike Leone and flew off to Denver to see how they were doing it and returned. I did my best to organize what I was asked to do, yelled at the Seattle Convention Center people to make sure everything was perfect. The first night the chairs were set up exactly opposite as we/I had requested. We had to scurry and endure the disapproving scowls of Rev. Vincenz. We pulled it off and everything went fine. At the end of the tour, the entire IOWC and the local members went to see Papayon and had a McDonald's feast with True Parents, about 150 people jammed into the place, singing and having a great time. What a time.
In the middle of this campaign, we began the Forgive, Love and Unite campaign in our area as well. When our city was finished we all drove across country to participate in a larger rally in DC. Barry Cohen was my leader then and we had a great adventure driving, non-stop from Seattle to DC and back.
As it turns out, the tree selling project was not a great financial success, but it did give us a lot of publicity for the 3 days of speeches.
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