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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Charity is branching out

A NEW plantation of Christmas trees bears witness to the fact the Hexham branch of an international charity is flourishing.

Betel House manager David Cox in the charity’s new Christmas tree plantation.

The first 1,800 saplings have been planted in an acre that will eventually boast 3,600 trees behind Betel House in Oakwood.

The Christian charity, which helps offenders and addicts turn their lives around, hopes its latest business venture will help plug a gap.

It already runs a garden maintenance service, a painting and decorating business and the furniture shop on Hexham’s Fore Street.

House manager at Oakwood, David Cox, said: “The Christmas season does affect our other businesses, because not everyone wants furniture or their gardens done at this time of the year.

“So selling Christmas trees is designed to help sustain and support us when income from our other businesses drops off.”

This festive season, Betel is selling logs and Christmas trees at a number of outlets, including Vallum Farm on the Military Road, supplied by the Yorkshire Christmas Trees company that is helping it get the business off the ground.

David hopes it won’t be too long before Betel House is selling its own, home-grown trees.

He has no agricultural or horticultural experience whatsoever, so he had to learn about growing Christmas trees, literally from the ground up.

“Some of the men (at Betel House) think I’m a bit mad, but maybe they’ll see that if I can do this, they can do anything,” he said.

Betel opened its house in Hexham in 2011, with places for up to 36 men.

Earlier this year it extended the service to women and there are now seven living in an annexe to the main building.

The charity is also seeking a second property, as close to Hexham as possible, that would provide a more suitable home for the women.

“Although they are in the annexe and it’s working ok, it’s not ideal that the women are living on the same premises as the men,” said David.

“So we hope to purchase a new, more suitable property next year.”

David’s wife, Brenda, will run the women’s refuge.