By Thea Skinner, Fort Carson MountaineerDecember 15, 2008
FORT CARSON, Colo.-One of the staples of the holiday spirit - Christmas trees - were given to Army Families at the Fort Carson Sports Complex Dec. 9.
The free trees lighted the faces of recipients during the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation's Trees for Troops program.
"Some have never had a live one their whole life," said Kim Van Treadway Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation chief of Supplies and Services. "Most of these trees are going to Families that would not have one otherwise - Families that need financial assistance."
Stuffed animal reindeer toys provided "little fluffy things" for children to cuddle and hot chocolate kept them warm as the trees were loaded into vehicles, Treadway said.
Six year old Damian Schaefer said his favorite aspect of Christmas is eating cookies and milk with his three-year-old brother. He also enjoys getting presents that will sit under the tree he chose for his Family.
"I think my mom will like it," he said.
Christmas SPIRIT Foundation donated 650 live Christmas Trees and FedEx coordinated delivery to Fort Carson. The trees were unloaded and distributed by DFMWR staff with garrison command sergeant major's eight-person detail support.
"Sometimes people think of it as just a Christmas tree," said Nichole Fischer, program coordinator for the foundation in Chesterfield, Mass. "I think some of these Families that get them - it is the smallest unexpected gift that just makes their holiday."
In 2007 the foundation donated 600 trees to Fort Carson Families. The foundation is the non-profit arm of the National Christmas Tree Association that aims to enhance the Christmas spirit for families, kids and the environment. As a member of the Combined Federal Campaign, which includes contributions from Fort Carson and various installations, the foundation received $100 in 2008. The money assisted in providing the trees to Families.
"Most bases tend to not have any extra trees. Most bases hand out recycling information on where to recycle the trees," Fischer said.
The tree program began in 2005 with five installations and 4,300 trees and evolved into 51 installations with 16,000 trees in 2008.
"We work with a lot of tree growers in the country, who where having servicemembers choose trees" from their farms, Fischer said. "We decided so many growers were already doing this" and revolutionized the program.
Although the trees are provided to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation by various farms nationwide, several farms in Colorado provide trees to the foundation including Tagawa Gardens in Centennial and Colorado Conifers Christmas Trees in Montrose.
Support personnel assisted with cutting the base of trees to allow for water absorption and dispersed information about how to nurture trees during the holidays. Tree recipients received a coupon for $10 off lights or a tree stand at the Post Exchange.
For the 2008 holiday season, FedEx delivered more than 36,000 trees to military Families. In November, the corporation transported about 400 trees to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, according to Sally Davenport, spokesperson for the FedEx based in Memphis, Tenn.