Joy is infectious. If you meet the Fabyanski family of Madison, you’re likely to have a conversation with them and forget that you met them only 10 minutes ago.

“I can’t imagine Christmas without selling Christmas trees at the Y,” says Ryan Fabyanski, 19, standing in the middle of the Madison Area YMCA Tree Lot on a cold, gray day a couple of days before Christmas. His twin brother, Jake, nods in agreement. The college freshmen are finishing up their fourth holiday season of wrapping and tying families’ perfect trees to the tops of their cars.

“This is the prettiest side,” says Mary Ellen Greene, giving the boys a point of reference for how they should cut her tree to show its best side. After pushing it through the baler, the tree pops out the other side wrapped in netting. It’s ready to be hoisted up and tied to her car’s roof for its journey home.

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“Volunteering at the Tree Lot is a great way to start the holiday season. It sets everything up,” says Jake, who attends Monmouth University. “And you establish relationships with people the minute you ask if you can help them with their tree.” 

“The Y has a real sense of community—a welcoming vibe of friendliness. It makes me want to give back more,” says Ryan, who attends Montclair State University. While a student at Madison High School, Ryan was a member of the Y’s Teen Leaders Club and became involved with the Rotary exchange program through the Y. He and his brother also attended Y camps growing up.

Their dad Mark says that when he and his wife Kristyn moved their family from Long Valley to Madison almost six years ago, they jumped right into getting involved in the community starting with the borough’s Downtown Development Commission.

“Then the holidays rolled around and we needed a Christmas tree so we came to the Y’s Tree Lot,” says Mark. Giving a nod toward Bob Conley, “Bob came right over to help. We bought the tree and then Bob said, ‘You just bought your first Christmas tree from the mayor-elect,’” laughs Mark. Mayor Conley’s first term began within a couple of weeks.

“Then, we became Y members. We did our cycling training for the Police Unity Tour and came back the following holiday season and started volunteering at the Tree Lot,” says Mark.

Not missing a beat, Mayor Conley quips, “When a good balsam pricks your skin, you’re hooked!” Mark followed up that his wife Kristyn is the one who makes sure that everyone is always prepared to volunteer in the Tree Lot with insulated clothing and clean gloves—free of sap, a casualty of handling Christmas trees.

When you see the Fabyanski crew out and about in Madison, be sure to say, “Hi!” You’ll be glad you did. You will have made some new friends in town.