The mission of the Christmas Spirit Foundation is to advance the Christmas Spirit for kids, families & the environment through programs & activities.
Christmas Spirit Foundation Recognizes Five SPIRIT AWARD Recipients for 2022
Randy and Denise Wood of Wood Mountain Christmas Trees in Temecula, California, have shown commitment to the T4T program since 2014 through their role in the retail Christmas tree business. Wood Mountain organizes tree fundraisers for groups like schools, non-profit organizations, and church groups which, in turn, register buyers to raise funds for their individual causes. The company then delivers fresh trees and wreaths from partners in the Pacific Northwest to participating organizations for their fundraisers.
Randy explains they initially became involved in T4T because they wanted to expand their company’s fundraising program. “We wanted an alternate way for folks to get trees, so we contacted Trees for Troops and they were happy to let us participate,” says Randy. “We started with their blessing and have been active ever since! It seemed like a perfect partnership to add the Trees for Troops program to our fundraising options in 2014. The opportunity to “gift” a tree and/or a wreath to an active-duty military member and their family and the organization at the same time is truly a “win-win” for individuals who may have an artificial tree or perhaps live out of state”.
The Wood’s commitment and innovation have made Wood Mountain a bedrock of the T4T program, supplying approximately ten percent of all trees donated to military bases nationwide. This has often made Wood Mountain the largest single supplier of donated trees for years. They even coordinate the addition of a special T4T tag with a hand-written message to be placed on every tree. Once the Trees for Troops donations are sold, Randy then manages a multi-day tree loading event in Oregon, often loading up to six full FedEx trailers with donated trees.
“In 2020, we added a beautiful wreath to the program. Each wreath is adorned with a patriotic bow with a scripted message, ‘Thank You for Your Service’,” says Randy. “The customers love that they have another option when participating in the fundraiser to show their support to our troops.”
When asked how receiving the Christmas SPIRIT Award made them feel, Randy explained, “You know, we don’t ever do things for awards. We just do it from the heart, and it seemed logical for us to participate. Our relationship with Trees for Troops has been fantastic. We sent about 2,000 trees last year, and plan to do about 2,500 this year because it keeps growing.”
Randy further explains that his father was in World War II, and his brother was in Vietnam, so he personally knows just how important supporting the military is. “We depend on our military every single day and this is a way that we and our customers can say thank you to them,” says Randy. “Trees for Troops is an amazing program with a mission that truly touches many families and lifts their spirits during the Christmas season.”
Greg Smith of 7G’s Tree Farm became involved in Trees for Troops in 2006 after his brother, former President of the Georgia Christmas Tree Growers Association (GACTA), passed away shortly after making a first donation of seven trees in the inaugural Trees for Troops campaign.
“We continued our donations through another farm collection point that year, which ignited a spark that maybe we could do more,” says Smith. “Prior to 2007, our GACTA director asked for a volunteer to take on the coordination of our efforts, and it just seemed like the right thing to do! While I’m not a veteran, I often tell people that this is my own tour of duty to honor my father who went missing in action in China during Christmas in 1944.”
The 7G’s Tree Farm was founded in 2001 by Smith’s brother, Gary, after their father passed the land on to his sons and daughters, whom he always called “his 7 G’s”. Gary’s wife, Liza, was actively involved in T4T until her passing earlier this year, and Greg’s wife, Jennie Smith, daughter, Amy Smith, sister, Greta Ivey, and nephew, Brad, all remain actively involved.
Smith was nominated for the Christmas SPIRIT award in acknowledgement of his service as the coordinator for all the participating tree farms in Georgia for the last 15 years. This included the coordination of 18 farms that provided trees, along with eight that served as pick up locations, and several additional Georgia farms that participated by collecting local sponsor gifts and jar donations for the cause.
Smith’s outstanding service in 2021 was highlighted by his assistance with the first-time T4T sponsorship from Georgia Power. It became clear that to meet the company’s expectations and maximize the value of their sponsorship, a local T4T participant would need to become involved, and Smith stepped up and helped ensure that it happened.
“It was gratifying to be able to help put together the load of trees for Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia at the last minute,” recalls Smith. “Georgia Power sponsored all the trees, and to have them all come from a Georgia farm was great!”
Smith shared other memorable stories from recent years that included a donation of 50 “surprise” trees to help fill a shipment at a collection point where things were running behind and the commitment was not otherwise going to be made. Another story involved 18 farms within the GACTA that donated a combined 710 trees to T4T in a single year. “I got quite emotional when I attended a distribution of trees at Fort Stewart near Savannah, Georgia in 2007,” remembers Smith. “Six trailers of trees were unloaded and distributed by the Better Opportunities Single Soldiers staff of soldiers from Fort Stewart.”
“I thank the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation for putting this together and giving me the opportunity to do something worthwhile,” says Smith. “After 71 years, you want to look back and see that you did something right!”
Steve Van Camp, Phelps New York businessperson and Vietnam War veteran, has been actively involved in the organization and promotion of Trees for Troops for over a decade. His outstanding service has included coordinating events at multiple VFW posts and American Legion posts (including his own – Seeley B Parish Post 457) to help raise funds for the trees, as well as recruiting volunteers throughout the year to tag, transport, and load trees.
“I became involved because we are a veterans organization that helps our fellow vets and thought that this (T4T) would be a perfect project,” says Van Camp. “We tried it for the first time in 2012, and help came around, so it turned out very well!”
When asked to relate any specific challenges and/or successes from the past years, Van Camp humbly replied that they were “always just trying to help”. Receiving the Christmas SPIRIT Award was greatly appreciated by Van Camp, but he wanted to be sure to note that it was a group effort.
Van Camp encourages citizens of all ages to find out about Trees for Troops and to help support it by “whatever you can do, including passing the word along”.
He remembers being “happy to get cookies while in the service – let alone a Christmas Tree” and would like to keep the Trees for Troops program going for as long as needed.