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Dick Workman of the Ashe County Christmas Tree Association, from left, helps Ashe County JROTC member, Thomas McNeill, load trees, bound for Camp Lejeune and Luke Air Force Base with the Trees for Troops program.

PHOTO BY HEATHER SAMUDIO | WATAUGA DEMOCRAT



Originally published: 2013-12-03 17:48:59
Last modified: 2013-12-04 11:23:52

Trees for troops

by Heather Samudio

Hundreds of Christmas trees were loaded Tuesday morning and sent on their way to armed forces members and their families, courtesy of donations from farms in Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties to the Trees for Troops program.

Cline Church Nursery in Fleetwood served as the collection site for the tri-county area and welcomed 19 members of the Ashe County High School JROTC to help load the trees.

Prior to loading, JROTC members added a card to each tree with a message from a local student.

Students at Blue Ridge, Mountain View and Westwood Elementary Schools, Ashe County High School and area Sunday school classes helped design the cards with messages thanking the troops for all they do and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

The JROTC members welcome the project, said their instructor, Lt. Col. (ret.) John Marsh. The group has participated in the collection since its local inception.

"It does wonders for the troops and helps provide a Christmas tree for those who otherwise wouldn't have one," Marsh said.

Elizabeth Hernandez, a senior at ACHS, was among the JROTC students working to add cards to the trees.

"I like working with JROTC," Hernandez said. "Knowing the troops are helping us, I'm glad we can do something for them, even if it's small."

But, Hernandez, who has aspirations to become a nurse in the military, is part of a much bigger picture. Trees for Troops is a national program with plans to deliver more than 17,000 Christmas trees to 61 military bases in the United States and overseas.

In the nine years that the program has been active in North Carolina, more than 13,000 trees have been supplied from the state, according to Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association.

Two trailers were loaded with trees Tuesday at the nursery and will be delivered to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville and Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

After the JROTC students helped load the trees, hot chocolate and refreshments were provided for them to enjoy by the Cline Church and John Moser families, specifically from Ellen Church and her sister, Carolyn Moser.

"My husband was in the military for 21 years, so this is near and dear to my heart," Moser said. "I helped Ellen prepare the hot chocolate and snacks for the kids because we want them to know that we care about them too."

Senior ACHS student Josh Baldwin shared his thoughts on the project while sharing in the hot chocolate.

"This means a lot to me," he said. "I like to help with this and I like to give back to the community. People are serving us and the least we can do is help them."

Baldwin, like Hernandez, has plans to join the military. He said he wants to attend college first, preferably East Carolina University. He plans to earn a degree in criminal justice, attend the law program and eventually join the Judge Advocate General.

This was Baldwin's second year of participating with Trees for Troops.

Trees for Troops is a program of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, working together with FedEx and American Christmas tree farmers and retailers. The trees are provided through the generosity of Christmas tree growers, retailers and consumers across the country, with shipping provided by FedEx.

Since 2005, Trees for Troops has delivered more than 122,000 real Christmas trees to troops and military families. This year, North Carolina has pledged to donate 1,400 trees between two pick-up locations, including the Fleetwood stop and a collection on Thursday in Crossnore.