For those who celebrate Christmas each year, putting up the Christmas tree is as much about tradition as it is the symbol for the holiday.
But not everyone is fortunate enough to spend time decorating a tree with loved ones, including those in the military who are stationed on bases in the United States and overseas. For them, this time of year can be difficult.
That is why the National Tree Association developed the Trees for Troops program in an effort to help.
In 2005, the NCTA developed the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The foundation quickly developed plans for a national program that could unify the individual programs of tree growers and state Christmas tree associations. FedEx became involved as the in-kind sponsor – and the national Trees for Troops program was born.
On Monday, December 1, 12 patients from A Forever Recovery joined forces with approximately 100 other volunteers at the Wahmhoff Farms Nursery in Gobles, Mich. to load up trees to be sent to our troops in Fort Carson, Colo., and Scott AFB in Ill.
“It’s for a good cause, we had a sign-up sheet and as soon as it came out, I signed up,” said AFR patient Melissa. “These people don’t have their families and they don’t get to have a Christmas like we do. Anything we can do to help is nice. It was nice to see how many people came out.”
The time spent loading 555 Christmas trees into trucks by the volunteers from AFR and others was much appreciated by Dan Wahmhoff — president and part-owner of Wahmhoff Farms Nursery — who has seen the participation number grown exponentially from when the cause began nine years ago.
“It makes a big difference. If we had to do this ourselves, it would be a lot more work, we rely on the support over here,” said Wahmhoff. “We can load the trucks with my crew, but having the people come out really builds our morale to see that there is that much support with the troops.”
To date, more than 122,000 trees have been donated and provided to troops and military families, and FedEx has provided the in-kind service of shipping these trees while logging more than 419,862 miles.
“The significant thing is that our troops are out there for us 365 days of the year,” said Wahmhoff. “They’re out there serving our country, giving us our freedoms, and in this particularly challenging time of the season, when they’re away from their family and friends for Christmas, it can be real hard on them. We try to to provide some home for them, some of the soldiers overseas now have a tree on the base, so that’s who we do it for.”