Friday, December 8, 2006

Trees for Troops - Live from the Field

Blog entry submitted by Nicole Kellogg of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation staff who has coordinated most of the tree donations and deliveries.

After traveling from coast to coast my Trees for Troops trip is nearing an end. Tomorrow I will be at Fort Gordon while soldiers unload 759 trees for families to collect as soon as they come off the FedEx truck. I have no doubt the trees will be received with as much gratitude and joy as they have been everywhere else.

My trip began with a four night stay in Puyallup, WA for the Victorian Country Christmas Festival. While selling 150 trees to send to Fort Stewart I had numerous people purchase a tree who had a son, brother, uncle, cousin, husband or wife serving overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. One little girl came up with her dad to provide a donation. The dad said "tell her where Mommy is." The little girl said, "Mommy's in Fffganistan." Break your heart, but thankfully Mommy will be home in January.

Another gentleman and his wife described a Christmas when they were stationed in Germany where he only had $1.00 left in his wallet. Trees were three franks (about $1.50), but they were able to talk the man selling the trees down to $1.00. He also said that at Christmas so many people from the base came to visit and provide gifts. He said we don't understand what a difference we are making in the lives of so many.

If you've never been to Big John's Christmas Trees in Atlanta, I highly suggest you stop by for a visit. Not only do they have any tree you could possibly want, but you will leave with your side hurting from laughing so hard. The staff at Big John's comes from across the country to work for the season. While not handling Fraser firs, in the off-season they can be found kayaking or spending time writing in Costa Rica. Bobbi and crew did a great job promoting the consumer donation program for Trees for Troops, where they sold 373 trees, 73 more than expected!

From Atlanta I headed to Columbus, GA for a visit to Fort Benning. They had about two squads of soldiers on hand to unload the trees. Two families collected their trees and spoke with the media. One family did not have a Christmas tree last year as they had just moved to the area during Christmas time, and were busy unpacking. They were very happy and excited to be picking up their tree this year.

Wednesday I helped Georgia Christmas Tree farmers, Greg and Cecil, load 70 trees at Greenbriar Creek farm in Bishop, GA. Beautiful Leyland Cyprus' were loaded on to the truck and are now on their way to Camp Lejeune, NC. As Greg said in an e-mail, " ...a worthy cause glad we in the Georgia Christmas Tree Association could help...the least we can do for what these men and women do for us." I'm sure we all second that statement.

This morning I visited Fort Stewart, GA where soldiers from the Boss program (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers) unloaded 529 trees. The ladies in the group had no problem hauling some of the bigger trees off of the truck. After they were finished they all agreed that they had just done two weeks worth of P.T.

I have had such a great time working on the Trees for Troops program. I have met so many wonderful people on this trip and working with the program. I am excited to get home to continue celebrating Christmas with my friends and family. To all of the military men and women and their families serving in our country and overseas I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for all you do.