Farm-Fresh Christmas: Program to provide trees to military personnel for the 12th year
On Nov. 15, Dull’s Tree Farm near Thorntown, Indiana, will be the site of the nationwide kick-off for Trees for Troops, a joint project of FedEx and the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which is the charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association. The purpose of the program is to provide free, farm-grown Christmas trees to members of the U.S. armed forces and their families.
“They go from the tree grower’s barn to our barn to the FedEx trucks to the FedEx distribution point in Indianapolis, where they get put on the airplanes and go to Guam. So in a couple of days, they’re delivered,” explained Tom Dull.
“Probably a lot of families wouldn’t have a tree without our assistance,” said Dick Darling of Darling’s Tree Farm, Clifton Springs, New York, who chairs the National Christmas Tree Association’s Trees for Troops committee. “And it’s the worst time of year to be separated from your family. You’ve got your husband deployed or the wife’s deployed, and you’ve got two or three little kids, and you’re stuck in some far-off base, and you don’t have a lot of friends.
“I think it’s just a nice thank-you from the tree farmers, saying we’re thinking of them,” he said.
The Nov. 15 event in Thorntown will be the first of many events across the country in which Christmas tree growers, retailers, service organizations, businesses and individuals donate trees for military personnel and their families.
Around 19,000 trees are expected to be donated this year from 400 or more farms. Some farms just donate a tree or two, and some donate a hundred or more, Darling said.
“That’s a lot of commitment. You put a $40 price tag on them and that’s a lot of money,” he explained.
Since the program began in 2005, more than 176,000 fresh Christmas trees have been provided to troops and military families stationed in the United States and overseas.
Indiana growers participate in more than one way, Dull said. Many donate trees, taking them either directly to Dull’s or to pick-up points in southwestern or northern Indiana. But there are other options.
“There are growers in the extreme ends of the state that say ‘I’m just going to donate some money to Hensler’s Nursery,’ for instance. ‘I’m going to buy trees from them and they can bring them,’” Dull explained.
The Indiana Trees for Troops event differs from most of the other events because the trees need to be prepped for shipment overseas.
“Every tree that goes overseas has to be put in a box – a cardboard box that’s coated with wax – so that they don’t dry out as they’re shipped,” Dull explained.
Once the trees are baled, packed and processed for travel at Dull’s, they are loaded onto a FedEx Express truck bound for the Indianapolis FedEx Express Hub. Following arrival at the hub, the trees will be staged and go through a pallet and shrink-wrap process prior to being loaded onto aircraft destined for Guam. Flight routing will take these trees through Anchorage, Alaska, on their way to the military bases located in Guam. Upon arrival in Guam, FedEx Express will deliver the trees.
But in other parts of the country, including New York, less preparation is required since the trees aren’t going to travel that far.
“FedEx has been with us for 12 years, and they pick up the trees and deliver them,” Darling said. “All we have to do is tell them where they are and they’ll pick them up and we tell them where we want them shipped.”
In all, around 65 U.S. military bases will receive some of the donated trees this year.
“We’ve got more bases requesting trees that we have trees,” Darling noted. “We could use more trees, really.”
As FedEx puts it, the tree represents “a little piece of home.”
“We do get letters and they’re very appreciative,” Darling said. “If they’re overseas, for example, they’re pretty appreciative that somebody’s thinking of them back home other than family. And they can’t believe that they’re getting a Christmas tree.”
“Can you just put yourself in a soldier’s or sailor’s position and being away from your family at Christmas time? And you get this box by FedEx, open it up and see what’s inside and just have that aroma waft out of that box,” Dull said.VIEW MORE IMAGES