Christmas-tree farms donate to military

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Jim Butler always looks forward to this time of year. Not only is he able to grow his business during another holiday season, but it also enables him to convey his support for the U.S. Armed Forces by donating some of his trees to military personnel.

“As long as somebody is going to distribute them, I’m glad to do it,” said Butler, owner of Homestead Christmas Tree Farm in Hampton. “I’ve also had some customers that wanted to buy a tree to donate. We always give them to them at a discounted price. They always collect the trees around the first of December.”

Homestead is among a number of local tree farms that make donations annually to Trees for Troops, a program operated by the Christmas Spirit Foundation. Since the program’s launch in 2005, FedEx has shipped more than 176,000 Christmas trees to service members and their families.

Butler first heard about Trees for Troops through his involvement with the Georgia Christmas Tree Association. He said tree-farm owners across the state have joined in the effort over the years.

“I’ve been donating 10 trees ever since it started,” said Butler. “There are some larger farms that donate 100 trees or more. We can only grow the southern Christmas trees -- Virginia Pine and Leyland Cypress -- and they don’t keep really well out of the water. Others can go to bases all over the world.”

Butler said the community has consistently supported the effort to donate Christmas trees to the military over the years. He emphasized the need for donations to be scheduled as early as possible, to ensure that they get to their destination in time for Christmas.

“If they come early and they buy it now, I will sell it to them at a discount and include their tree with the trees that I take to be shipped.”

Earl Worthington, owner of Worthington Tree Farm in Hampton, echoed Butler’s sentiments about the need to support the military during the holidays. Worthington has participated in Trees for Troops for about a decade, donating 10 trees to service members each year.

“It’s just a show of appreciation and support for military personnel,” said Worthington. “FedEx takes them to military bases, and gives them to families that are living stateside on military bases. I have no way of knowing where they went. I’ve had some interaction with personnel at the base down below Macon. The trees that we give, they may end up in Savannah or Columbus – anywhere there’s a military base in the state.”

Although Worthington doesn’t always get to see his trees reaching their destination, he said he is encouraged each year by information he receives from the military through the National Christmas Tree Growers Association.

“The feedback that we get is that they’re delighted to get a Christmas tree for Christmas,” said Worthington.

Mike Ducker, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Freight, recently expressed his gratitude for the ongoing participation of tree-farm owners in Trees for Troops.

“We are honored to use our network and capabilities this holiday season to deliver trees to the brave men and women serving in the U.S. military,” he said. “The Trees for Troops program allows the FedEx team to share the holidays with thousands of our heroes.”

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