Trees for Troops by the numbers in 2009…
• Christmas trees delivered: 16,651
• Trees shipped overseas: 280
• Farms donating trees: 700
• Participating states: 29
• Trees for troops weekend trees donated: 5,102
• Bases receiving trees: 54
• Military branches: 5
• Countries with deliveries: 5
• FedEx miles: 56,618
Some people give money during the holidays. Others give toys to needy children. And some, like Judy and Paschal Brewer, give Christmas trees.
“We need to share some of our blessings and that’s a way we can do it,” Paschal Brewer said of his tree giveaway to those who may not be able to afford it otherwise.
The couple owns Brewer’s Christmas Tree-Blueberry Farm in Midway where they grow leyland cypress, Virginia pine, red cedar and Carolina sapphire Christmas trees.
Every year, the farm bustles with the sound of families selecting their favorite tree to tie to the top of a vehicle before hauling it a home for the holidays.
But some families don’t have the means to take home an evergreen for the holidays, Brewer said, often leaving a void where the seasonal symbol of Christmas ought to be.
About five years ago, the Brewers got involved in a program called Trees for Troops, a 501 (c)(3) public charity that is tied to The Christmas Spirit Foundation, dedicated to donating trees to military families who may not otherwise be able to afford one.
“It is a joy to us to be able to do it and we feel fortunate enough to be able to do so,” said Brewer, who usually donates 10 to 12 trees to Fort Stewart soldiers and military families.
Generally, the program runs Dec. 4-6, according to the Christmas Spirit Foundation website, but the Brewers are on their own schedule because the trees don’t have far to go.
Brewer said the farm is different because it is close to a base where the Brewers can actually meet face-to-face with the families who need trees. Other families across the nation must wait for the tree to be shipped by FedEx, a sponsor of the program.
According to the Christmas Spirit Foundation website, the way the program started was simple: “For several years, Christmas tree growers had been providing free trees for charitable purposes. In the 1990s, some organized efforts started through which trees were given to National Guard units and other military personnel who were deployed in peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and other regions of the world,” states the site.
Since the Brewers have gotten involved, they have helped fund the shipping of trees to troops overseas and given fresh firs to troops on Fort Stewart. The Brewers generally present gift certificates to a chaplain on base who then takes the certificates to needy military families. The certificate even grants military children a free hayride throughout the 21-acre farm.
As a former sailor, Brewer said he understands the need to take care of military members and their families.
“It is a small opportunity to give back,” he said. “We’re very fond of our military.”
The farm also offers a 10 percent discount to service members who come out to pick their own trees.
The public can also participate in the Trees for Troops program with donations or by buying a tree to send to a soldier. The donations may be made at any time from Thanksgiving weekend until Christmas Eve.