Every year, thousands of U.S. military soldiers and personnel are unable to spend the holidays with family and friends due their faithful and courageous service to their nation. To bring a touch of the holidays to overseas to barracks, the N.C. Christmas Tree Association will donate 1,000 trees to Trees for Troops Families. For many, a Christmas tree is the centerpiece and most recognizable symbol of the holiday season, much like the turkey is to Thanksgiving.
Consumers can attend “Trees for Troops” this weekend, Dec. 5-7, at participating farms and purchase a tree that will be delivered to military personnel and their families. Participating tree lots will also donate $5 for every tree that is purchased to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, which is spearheading the program.
Although the “Trees for Troops” program is still somewhat fresh to the High Country, the effort has steadily grown since its conception in 2005. To the delight of troops, the northern mountains sent over 4,000 trees to soldiers serving beyond or within their country’s borders. The following year, the program was responsible for the delivery of nearly 12,000 trees to 25 different bases. Last year, 750 farmers provided 16,846 trees to troops in 15 countries, the Trees for Troops Website stated.
The Trees for Troops program is not exclusive to the High Country alone as 29 states nationwide will be donating over 16,000 trees to troops around the world this Christmas. Since the program’s conception in 2005, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx have delivered over 34,000 trees to military families at over 40 bases in 17 different countries, a press release from the NCCTA stated. FedEx alone has traversed over 90,000 miles on the road to deliver this Christmas cargo, the NCTA said.
“Our military and their families have been providing a real service to our country,” NCTA President Mark Steelhammer stated. “As Christmas tree farmers, we want them to be able to experience a traditional Christmas with a real feel.”
There are two collection points where FedEx is picking up trees for delivery in the High Country. One of the sites is located at Jim Rideout’s Linville River Nursery which is located at 6321 Linville Falls Hwy in Newland. Linville River Farms loaded 538 trees on Thursday morning. Linda Gragg of the NCCTA stated that the organization was “very pleased with those numbers.” Linville River Nursery collected trees from Avery County to as far south as Jackson County.
The Ashe County collection point is maintained by Cline Church Nursery at 10787 Hwy 221 S in Fleetwood. According to Linda Gragg, Executive Director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, the trees that are picked up from the Church’s drop-off location on Dec. 5 will be shipped to Ft. Benning, Ga and the trees loaded from Linville River will be destined for Ft. Bragg. As of Thursday afternoon, Gragg and workers from the Church’s location are expecting to collect nearly 700 trees on Friday. Cline Church Nursery is the designated drop-off site for Ashe, Alleghany, and Watauga counties. According to the nursery’s Website, www.clinechurchnursery.com, the company has been a mainstay in the county since 1977 and has grown to provide a strong customer base over much of the east coast.
Gragg commented that a few years ago, she visited with troops at Ft. Bragg and became overwhelmed by the welcoming response of the base’s soldiers. Gragg learned that without the “Trees for Troops” program, the soldiers would have not been able to enjoy an authentic Fraser fir for Christmas.
“It was such a heart warming experience at Ft. Bragg and we as well as the growers are honored to be a part of this,” Gragg stated.
Nationally, the collection as well as the delivery of trees will take place from the end of November through the month of December.
For further information please contact Linda Gragg at (828)-562-5826 and anyone who wishes to make contributions to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation can visit www.christmasspiritfoundation.org. More information is also available at www.treesfortroops.org. The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation is based in Chesterfield, MO and is a nonprofit foundation that advances the Christmas spirit for children, families, and the environment. Trees for Troops is just one of the programs that the foundation sponsors.