CORTLAND – Ronald Jarke, owner of Ace Machine and Tool in Cortland, wishes he could do more to help the local homeless population, and is off to a good start with his mini Christmas tree business.
In its second year, Jarke, 48, and his wife, Elissa, along with Rachel Rostenthal, an administrator at Ace Machine and Tool, are heading up an effort to alleviate the homeless count in DeKalb.
They are making and selling mini trees and donating the money to Hope Haven in DeKalb.
“We’ve always tried to help out the homeless over the years, and we just came up with this idea to help out Hope Haven even a little bit,” Jarke said in an interview Monday. “These Christmas trees that we make, this is something that 25 years ago we would have made them for our moms and aunts and sisters, and I thought ‘let’s go ahead and try selling them.’”
In collaboration with another machine shop in Elburn, the Jarkes are creating two-and-a-half-inch tall Christmas trees made of aluminum, white plastic or brass.
The trees – which run for $12 a pop on an Etsy page managed by Rostenthal – are created in Elburn and packaged in Cortland, and hand-delivered (local deliveries only) by Jarke or one of his team members. Buyers also can pay for regular shipping on Etsy.
Ron Jarke lives in DeKalb with his wife and bought the Cortland shop just over a year ago. The Jarkes operated a similar business out of their garage for 10 years, and decided they wanted to expand.
“[The shop in Cortland] came with a nice group of customers, along with ours, and we were here for over a year at this point and got to thinking we wanted to do something nice [for the community],” Ron Jarke said.
Hope Haven was chosen by Ron and Elissa because of its mission to fight homelessness in DeKalb County.
“It’s local, and they’re a pretty good group of people,” Jarke said.
2017 was the first year for the Christmas tree project, and Jarke said he can’t remember exactly how many were sold, but “it was a small amount, but every little bit helps.”
Jarke’s humbling holiday spirit is contagious in the shop, and he said his staff helps spread the word about the Christmas trees.
“They kind of promote, and get it out there for us,” Jarke said. “I know the guys in the shop like to buy them from time to time.”
Those interested in purchasing a tree can visit Jarke’s Etsy page by searching Ace Machine Tool on the site. Jarke accepts credit cards and PayPal. Turn-around time of the trees is impressively fast.
“Something like that can be made in about five to 10 minutes,” Jarke said. “Order them today, have them tomorrow. Order today and you’re local? Have them today.”
Jarke recommends ordering by Dec. 24 at the latest to receive them by Christmas. Jarke hopes to keep selling the trees each year, and will offer them through the new year.
As far as being of charitable spirit? Jarke just counts himself one of the lucky ones, especially during the holidays. To him, it seems only natural to want to give back.
“I just think we should all be happy we have a job, and a place to live,” Jarke said. “There are people that are living on the outskirts and in the parks in DeKalb and Sycamore, and whatever we can do to help out, we will. I wish I could do more.”