On Friday morning, some 750 locally grown Christmas trees headed from Cline Church Nursery in Fleetwood to Camp LeJeune.
The Trees for Troops effort began in 2005, and has grown ever since. That first year, 4,300 trees went to five military bases. In 2006, 11,854 trees went to 25 bases. And this year, organizers expect to send 17,000 trees to 35 bases around the world.
“FedEx handles the logistics,” said Harry Yates, one of the people working on the effort in this region. “Last year, the cost to FedEx was estimated to be over $1 million.”
Cline Church added, “This year, we are sending trees to 15 countries.”
The local trees will stay at Camp LeJeune, Church explained. “They will go to military families there, including those who have people deployed overseas,” he said. Col. John Marsh, head of Ashe County High School’s JROTC program, explained that many military families, especially younger ones, have limited resources and the trees will be a very welcome present.
The program has grown this year, Church explained, in part because of the new involvement of retailers. These retailers allow their customers to purchase a tree and donate it immediately to the Trees for Troops effort. Five dollars of the price then goes to the Christmas Spirit Foundation, the National Christmas Tree Association-founded group that spearheads this effort. “That is a major part of the growth,” he said.
“This effort brings tree growers a lot closer together,” Church said. “They also want to support the troops