Over 1,050 trees from about 20 farms in Ashe, Alleghany,Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, Jackson and other counties were donated to the program this year. Trees were brought on Tuesday to Cline Church Nursery in Fleetwood where they were loaded onto tractor trailers headed for Marine Corps Air Station New River in Fort Story, Va., and the U.S. Army base in Fort Bliss, Texas. On Wednesday, trees were loaded at Linville River Nursery in Crossnore headed for Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. About 300 trees left Ohio in November headed to military bases overseas.
The goal of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association this year was to hit the 100,000 mark, said Executive Director Jennifer Greene.
“North Carolina donates over one thousand trees each year, and this year we’re celebrating donating the 100,000th tree,” Greene said. Over the course of seven years, the program has donated to more than 40 military bases around the country and overseas. This is a national program headed by the National Christmas Tree Association. And it wouldn’t be possible without FedEx donating the shipping. We also appreciate everyone who supports this program.”
“Trees for Troops® is a program of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation,” states the program’s website, www.treesfortroops.org. “Their charitable programs for children, families and the environment are designed to enhance the Christmas spirit. Since the program’s inception in 2005, Christmas tree growers from across the U.S. have generously supported military families by providing fresh cut Christmas trees.”
Cline Church said his nursery began offering a site for collection and loading of the donated trees in 2005. “It’s been great,” he said. “It’s gotten stronger every year, much more than we anticipated. I expect it to continue because the military has accepted it so well.”
For several years before this program’s inception, Christmas tree growers had been providing free trees for charitable purposes, notes the Trees for Troops website. “In the 1990s, some organized efforts started through which trees were given to National Guard units and other military personnel who were deployed in peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and other regions of the world.
“Then, in early in 2005, the National Christmas Tree Association developed two concepts:
• Create the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to advance the spirit of Christmas year-round for kids, families and the environment.
Develop plans for a national Trees for Troops program that could unify the individual programs of tree growers and state Christmas tree associations.”
Since then, the program has been growing every year. JROTC cadets from ACHS got involved the first year and have been coming every year since to help load the trees on the trucks in Fleetwood.
“They think it’s a good deal,” said Lt. Col. (retired) John Marsh who leads the school program. “They support it and enjoy it. I could bring 50 cadets, but they only get to come if they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s a privilege.”
Marsh said he has about 200 cadets in the JROTC program this year, divided between two semesters. “Our goal,” he said of the program, “is to make them understand what it means to be an American.”
To learn more about the Trees for Troops program, you can go on the organization’s website, at www.treesfortroops.org, and see messages from military members who have received the trees, photos and more. You can find out how to support the program and even order items from the online store.
The program offers an opportunity for mobile giving with a new text messaging campaign. Consumers can either send a text (SMS) donation or join the Mobile Fan Club.
Text SPIRIT to 50555 to join the Mobile Fan Club.
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation is partnering with Greater than Goods to sell t-shirts and sweatshirts benefiting the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation’s Trees for Troops program. For every Trees for Troops item you purchase from Greater than Goods, $5 will be donated to CSF for the Trees for Troops program.