Trees For Troops is a bright light for military families this holiday season. The award-winning program delivers free Christmas trees to families in the States, as well as to soldiers overseas.
The Christmas SPIRIT Foundation established Trees for Troops 14 years ago. They partnered with FedEx, who delivers the trees, as well as local partners, farmers, and suppliers in the Christmas tree industry.
“That first year, it was a pretty short timeline and a small number of trees, but it just really stuck within the industry,” Ann O’Connor, Executive Director of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation said.
It all began with the idea that deployed soldiers weren’t going to be able to have a Christmas. As the charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation wanted to spread holiday spirit to as many families as they could.
“Now it’s a full time, year-round job to find bases that are willing to accept trees,” O’Connor said. “While it sounds easy to give a gift to the military, there’s a lot of regulations that we have to follow.”
Different bases have different requirements for accepting donations. Overseas bases are especially tricky, because each country where a U.S. base is located has their own rules on incoming plant material. It’s a massive, collective effort that involves the tree farms, FedEx, and Christmas SPIRIT itself.
Trees For Troops services around 70 bases a year. Each base gets anywhere from 20 to 1,000 trees; Coast Guard outlets are typically smaller, and Marine bases tend to be larger.
“We really like to believe that it just brings a touch of home.”
Christmas SPIRIT receives hundreds of thank-you cards after the holiday season. They all express gratitude for Trees For Troops, and what the program has given to the military community.
Thank you SO MUCH for sending trees to Anderson AFB on Guam!! We were blessed with one of your trees (from Indiana) and just want you to know how special it is for our family to have a live tree for Christmas! We are so grateful for your charity!
—The Forman Family
These messages — from families at home, and units thousands of miles away — are a welcome reminder of why this mission was started.
“I think what the farmers like best is that they’re sending something that they grew with their own hands,” O’Connor stated. “They want to remind troops of all the people back home who are rooting for them, and proud of them, and thankful that they are willing to serve in our military.”
Trees For Troops has received plenty of well-deserved recognition for their work. They are recipients of the Spirit of Hope Award and the Best in America Seal of Excellence. They were also Top 20 Finalists in the White House’s 2012 Joining Forces Campaign.
“I love when people recognize our program, because it’s all done by volunteers and donations,” O’Connor said. “There’s no big secret funder behind our program — it’s from the heart.”
How you can help
There are several ways to contribute to this worthy cause!
- Trees For Troops accepts donations on their website year-round.
- You can also donate when you are shopping for your own family tree; many farms will send in the donations, or feature collection jars.
- You can purchase an additional tree from a participating farm that will go directly to a military base.
For the list of Trees For Troops delivery locations, as well as participating tree farms, click here.