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DAC client takes pride in maintaining Christmas tree forest

Janet Nodes, takes a lot of pride in her Christmas tree forest at The DAC Salvage Depot in Park Rapids. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

The Salvage Depot is one of three retail stores operated by the staff and clients of the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC).

The Salvage Depot depends upon the generosity of the community by receiving numerous contributions of donated items, including Christmas trees.

Janet Nodes has been a client at the DAC for nearly four years. She is responsible for the assembly of the Christmas tree forest each year.

"I try my best, putting them up and decorating them. I take a lot of pride in my trees. I'm very proud of them," Nodes said. "I enjoy the holidays. It makes me happy and excited for Christmas."

"Three years ago when we were trying to sell the trees out of the box people would ask if all the pieces were there," said Kristine Strate, manager at the Salvage Depot and a program director for the DAC. "We sold some but nothing like we did when we started putting them up."

The staff and clients at the Salvage Depot started getting ready to put up the trees right after Halloween by relocating some of the furniture in the showroom to the back of the store in order to make room for Janet's forest of trees.

Last year, they sold all of the trees they had in stock except for one, which totalled over 80 Christmas trees. And they have already sold numerous trees this year.

"Several of the trees we've sold so far have been huge, beautiful trees," Strate said.

Prices for the trees range from $25 to $75, depending on the size and condition. The majority of them are between $30 and $50. According to Strate, as the holidays get closer there will be additional discounts making it reasonable for people to get a tree. The Salvage Depot also sells strings of light and other holiday decorations.

"There are probably a lot of families out there who don't know that we do this," DAC Executive Director Laura Johnson said. "It's a great way for them to get an inexpensive tree and still support the DAC."

"I've heard complaints that the donated things we sell are too expensive, but the stores are helping to ensure that the DAC stays in business. With the recent changes in federal funding we are already starting to see reductions in the revenue that we are getting for taking care of the clients and helping them learn job skills," Johnson added about the importance of their retail locations. "We are starting to pay more of the clients minimum wage, which we don't get reimbursed for so the stores are what have allowed the Hubbard County DAC to provide such great support for our clients and we need to continue doing that."

Clients like Janet are provided the best training and resources to help them succeed, and with a wide range of employment options they are given the opportunity to choose their preferred work environments.

When asked why her job is so important to her, Janet said, "The environment, the people, getting up in the morning and seeing all these smiling faces; it boosts my confidence."

The Salvage Depot employs five staff members to help provide services to the clients, the number of clients varies day to day since many of them work at more than one job.

"One of the things that we try to do is give the clients a choice," Johnson said. "We try to make sure they're working a job that they like."

The donations start to drop off during the winter months for multiple reasons. The Salvage Depot does offer pickup for individuals wanting to donate items without the means to transport them as well as delivery of items bought at the store.

"It's a win win for the community and for the clients," Strate said. It's about giving the community a chance to donate items rather than throw them away and in turn providing the clients with employment opportunities.

"It's fun and there's a lot of diversity. In some cases they'll fix things, they repair things, sand things and paint or stain them," Johnson said. "It all depends what comes through the door."

For Janet, her favorite task is getting ready for Christmas, she says most of the time she assembles the trees on her own, getting occasional help but most people aren't as invested as her.

"I am rarely down in the dumps, I'm mostly upbeat and happy," Janet said. "I'm not a bah humbug, I love Christmas."

This year, Janet has earned her "honorary degree" in assembling Christmas trees. Strate read from the certificate Janet received: "Janet Nodes is receiving her official Nice List Certificate in recognition of her cinnamon and spice behavior and exemplary Christmas tree assembly skills. We have officially placed Janet Nodes on the 2016 Santa Nice List, checked twice."