Ashe County Christmas tree farmers joined a nationwide effort on Friday morning by donating trees to the “Trees for Troops” charity.
“Trees for Troops,” a program of the Christmas Spirit Foundation, provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to United States armed forces members in all branches of the military and their families, through donations, sponsorships and the hard work of volunteers.
According to Jennifer Greene, the executive director of the N.C. Christmas Tree Association, this will be the eighth year of the program, and in that time, over 103,000 Christmas trees have been shipped to 62 military bases nationally.
Greene said Ashe County barely met its goal of 1,000 donated trees on Friday.
The majority of donated trees came from tree farmers. however, individuals also get involved in this project.
According to Travis Birdsell, the extension agent for agriculture, individuals often purchase trees from growers so they can donate to the “Trees for Troops” project.
Another part of the charity is FedEx, who has delivered trees to military bases at no cost since the project began in 2005.
This year, the trees from Ashe County will be sent to Fort Benning, located in Cusseta, Ga., and Fort Polk, located 10 miles east of Leesville, La.
Every year, the Ashe County High School ROTC has sent students to help load the trees donated by the community.
Klein Church, who’s nursery was used as a collection site for Ashe County, said “It’s hard to believe how much this event has grown.”
“When we began eight years ago, we didn’t know how long this event would continue, but we decided to be a part of it because it was for a good cause. Not only has this event continued over the past few years, it has grown,” said Church.
“Now, this has really became a big event that people want to be a part of. Not only is the ROTC helping us load the trees, kindergarten students have also come to help the last few years,” said Church.
This year, nearly 60 kindergartners came from Boomer-Ferguson Elementary School in order to help tag Christmas Trees before they were shipped to the military bases, said Greene.
Also, volunteers were treated to baked goods and hot beverages provided by Calvary United Methodist Church.
According to Greene, the Christmas Spirit Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of the National Christmas Tree Association. In addition to the “Trees for Troops” project, the foundation is involved in other programs including college scholarships, hurricane relief and recycling programs.