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Michigan Christmas tree farmers send holiday spirit to U.S. troops
By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
Michigan Correspondent

GREENVILLE, Mich. — Michigan Christmas tree growers have teamed up to help make the holidays brighter for the nation’s military families.

This holiday season, Trees for Troops is expected to collect and deliver more than 11,000 real Christmas trees from 27 states to military families across the United States, as well as to soldiers serving overseas.

“Our military and their families have been providing a real service to our country,” said Beth Walterscheidt, president of the National Christmas Tree Assoc. and a Christmas tree farmer from Elgin, Texas. “And, as Christmas tree farmers, we want them to be able to experience a traditional Christmas with a real tree.”

In conjunction with the Christmas Spirit Foundation, part of the National Christmas Tree Assoc., the Michigan Christmas Tree Assoc. has coordinated the donation of 1,000 fresh Christmas trees from Michigan to military families through the Trees for Troops program.

Of those 1,000 trees, three Montcalm County growers gave 702 trees.

“It’s a great cause,” said Jody Wilkes of Happy Holiday Christmas Trees of Greenville.

Wilkes, whose business has operated in Michigan for 35 years and in Montcalm County for 25 years, said the company supported the effort because “it’s a great program. Whenever there are people facing difficulties with people being gone and being overseas it’s nice to be able to give something to them to help them.”

The trees were shipped for free by Federal Express to Fort Campbell, Ky. Twelve bases nationwide will receive trees.

“That’s a huge commitment from them for the shipping,” Wilkes said.

The Trees for Troops program was first implemented in 2005, and with the help of FedEx Corp., delivered more than 4,300 Christmas trees to five U.S. military bases, as well as an overseas shipment to the Middle East.

“Trees for Troops was a huge success,” said Christmas SPIRIT Foundation chairman Nigel Manley, a grower in Bethleham, N.H. “It really resonated with our industry and the military.”

This year’s program kicked off on Nov. 14, with international shipments leaving from Ohio and Indiana and going to soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and the Fifth Fleet in the Gulf. The collection and delivery of trees will take place through December. Consumers may make contributions to support the program and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation at www.ChristmasSPIRITFoundation.org

This is the second year that Michigan growers have participated in the Trees for Troops program.

Michigan is ranked third for its Christmas tree production behind No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 North Carolina.

12/20/2006