My two-week Tour De Trees for Troops started this year in St. Louis and took me to Fort Leonard Wood, MO, Fort Campbell, KY and Fort Knox, KY. The end of the first week I came home and visited Scott Air Force Base and then traveled to Georgia where I stopped at Fort Benning, Fort Stewart and Fort Gordon. It was a whirlwind two weeks, but always worth the trip.
Trees for Troops Weekend, Friday, Nov. 30 – Sunday, Dec. 2, Becky and I worked the Trees for Troops Weekend lot in Chesterfield, MO, where customers could buy a tree and load it onto the FedEx truck. They also had the chance to write a special message on a “tree tag” that would be sent with the tree to a military family. Running a tree lot is a lot more labor intensive than it looks, especially in freezing rain! That didn’t stop customers from coming though!
Fort Leonard Wood
Megan (pronounced Meegan) and the folks at Fort Leonard Wood were great. They have a fenced-in area where 30 + military volunteers helped unload the trees for storage that night to be distributed the next day. The FedEx center manager even rode along with the driver to see the delivery. FedEx employees do a great job of visiting many of the bases and helping to unload the trees and the fact that the center manager came along just reinforces their commitment to the Trees for Troops program and the military families it serves.
While we were there we received a “challenge coin” from two of their higher-ranking service members. Challenge coins, I have been told, are not given lightly in the military. They are given by officers to lower-ranking service members and civilians for a job well done. The challenge is the next time you see the person you have to show them your coin or else you must buy them a “beverage” of their choice.
Fort Campbell has their distribution system very well coordinated with vouchers. Families came one after the other in a steady flow to pick out their perfect tree. Phyllis, Communications Manager for FedEx, helped to distribute coloring books and stuffed teddy bears that were very well received by kids and parents too!
Phyllis and I headed to Fort Knox, where Sherry and her staff were VERY helpful. This was Fort Knox’s first year coordinating the event. I think Sherry was a little nervous that everything would go smoothly, but it all went off without a hitch! Trees were unloaded right before it started to rain, but with Sherry’s advanced planning, everyone could gather under the tents she had set up and drink the hot chocolate provided by FedEx. Phyllis also presented the base with a signed card by FedEx employees.
After Fort Knox, I headed back to St. Louis where I visited Scott Air Force Base. There must have been a line a mile long, but everyone in the line received a tree by the end of the night. The snow and hot chocolate and Christmas music provided by the USO really put everyone in the Christmas Spirit!
On Dec. 9, I headed to Atlanta, GA and then drove a couple of hours to Fort Benning. The weather was beautiful, 70 degrees, and I had packed sweaters. Darlene, the base coordinator of the program, was loving life in her shorts. Her two outdoor recreation assistants, Jesse and John, were there again this year to help unload. Even though Jesse had taken another job on base, he still came back to help unload the trees. Elsie, Public Affair Officer for Fort Benning, was also on site helping with the media. One of my favorite pictures from the Trees for Troops Program came from Fort Benning. Here it is!
Mike Brumby’s Pick-up
From Fort Benning I drove to Tifton, GA where I met up with Mike Brumby and his wife, Moppie and received a great tour of the farm. They are one of the larger farms in Georgia so there was plenty to see! I especially enjoyed Mike’s “test” area where he had experimented with growing different types of trees.
The next morning many members of the local community came out to show their support and help load the trees, including the Sheriff, who had purchased 10 trees to go to families.
Fort Stewart At Fort Stewart, I met up with Greg again and also James Ellison, base coordinator. James had volunteers from the BOSS program (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers) available to help unload. They always have a fun group who enjoys helping out even if they aren’t the ones receiving the trees.
Fort Gordon was my last stop. Like Camp Lejeune, they have a “drive-by” Trees for Troops where families drive up in a parking lot and select their tree. A higher ranking officer was picking out her tree and she said “Where’s FedEx?” I told her that although I wasn’t with FedEx I represented the Foundation that helped to provide the trees. She thanked me and said it was a great thing we were doing for their soldiers.
2007 has been the best year yet for Trees for Troops! Just take a look at the numbers below:
- Number of Trees Delivered: nearly 17,000
- Number of Trees Shipped Overseas: 400
- Number of Countries: 7
- Number of Participating Farms/Lots: 750-800
- Number of Participating States: 29
- Number of Trailer Drop Locations: 40
- Number of Military Bases: 37 (all branches of service, including National Guard and Coast Guard)
- Number of FedEx air miles (for overseas shipments): 17,000
- Number of FedEx over-the-road miles: more than 51,000