Trees for Troops
Staff Sgt. Kevin Annalis, his family and his mother-in-law, get help picking the perfect tree from Preston Charity at last years' Trees for Troops. This lot will be open on a first-come, first-served basis Dec. 8 and 9. The trees are donated by tree growers and Fed Ex to ensure military families can have a free, live tree.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- Active-duty Soldiers and their families can browse for the perfect free Christmas tree Dec. 8 and 9 when the Recycle Center is transformed into a Christmas tree lot and decorated to get everyone into the holiday spirit.

There will be about 300 trees this year with several varieties to choose from.

Distribution of the live trees begins Dec. 8 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and continues Dec. 9 from 1-5 p.m. at 3330 NW Sheridan Road. The trees are available to active-duty military families on a first-come, first-served basis. Trees not taken over the weekend will be distributed Dec. 10 until all are gone.

Families of deployed Soldiers can receive a tree, said Chris Smith, Recycling Center manager.

"They just need to bring their ID card," she said. "We will have volunteers available to help carry and load the tree."

This is the seventh year Fort Sill has received trees for Soldiers and their families. The Trees for Troops program is sponsored by the Spirit of Christmas Foundation and Federal Express. In 2005, the foundation partnered with National Christmas Tree Association members and FedEx. Christmas tree growers across the United States donated the trees.

"This year our trees will be coming from Texas, New York and Ohio," said Smith. "Some of the trees are donated directly by the tree farms, while others are purchased and donated using funds raised by school children, Scout troops or other organizations as well as individual families."

All donors are encouraged to include cards, ornaments and personal messages. The cards thank our Soldiers for keeping us safe and protecting us. Children write hundreds of Christmas cards thanking the troops for protecting their country, and they offer handmade Christmas ornaments in the shapes of giant snowflakes, reindeer or trees.

"It's incredible to think these youngsters, from age 4 or 5 on up, understand the mission of our troops and the sacrifice of their families," said Smith.

"FedEx delivers all the trees both at home and abroad," she said. "The foundation's goal is to deliver 100,000 Christmas trees to our Soldiers and their families."

Smith added about 300 trees are shipped overseas each year and the rest are distributed to military installations across the United States.

"Despite the fact the economy has been tight, this program has continued. Tree farm owners still donate trees to military families, even though they might be struggling themselves," she said.

Should this fall's unseasonably warm temperatures suddenly drop, the Recycle Center will give out cookies, hot coffee and cider to help keep tree shoppers warm.

In addition, volunteers, which include recycle employees and their family members, will be on hand to help families select a tree and assist loading it. The staff has a device to help make the trees more manageable. They push the trees through a cylinder that wraps it in a fish-net "sock," making the tree more compact.

"Those who receive trees need to provide blankets if they want to protect their vehicles and or rope to help tie down the trees," said Smith.

She said historically there have been enough trees for everyone.

"We understand a live tree is a personal choice. Some people really like getting a live tree because it brings back Christmas memories while others do not want one because of allergies, the mess or they are going out of town," she said.

For more information, call 585-7865.

Page last updated Thu December 6th, 2012 at 00:00