Overseas troops get Christmas trees ‘fir’
By Kathleen Folkerth
DOYLESTOWN — Ohio’s Christmas tree farmers are sending part of the state to overseas troops for the holidays.
They’re doing it with Operation Evergreen, a project that has grown from sending 30 Ohio- grown Christmas trees in 1995 to Bosnia and Kosovo to 300 trees being sent this year to Doha, Qatar.
From there, the trees will go to troops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and, for the first time, Iraq.
Amy Galehouse, general manager of Galehouse Tree Farms in Doylestown, has been coordinator of the program, organized by the Ohio Christmas Tree Association, since 1999. Her family’s business has been involved since the beginning, though.
“The first boxes they used to ship the trees were from our farm,” Galehouse said.
She said individual tree farmers from around the country have been sending trees to troops or giving them to the U.S. Armed Forces for years, but it’s believed that Ohio’s Operation Evergreen was the first organized statewide effort.
It has helped spawn another effort,
called Trees for Troops, sponsored by the Christmas
SPIRIT Foundation, the charitable arm of the National
Christmas Tree Association, Galehouse said. That effort
sends donated trees to Army and Marine
bases in the United States to the families of troops
who are serving. Galehouse said last year more than
5,000 trees were donated, and this year there are plans
to donate 11,000 to 15,000 trees for that project.
According to Galehouse, out of
about 400 Christmas tree farms in the state, about 50
donate trees for the Operation Evergreen project.
The toughest task of Ohio’s
project, she said, is taking care of the shipping of
the trees. FedEx has donated shipping services for the
300 trees this year. Galehouse said the cost to ship
trees varies by destination but ranges from $100 to
The trees are baled at the tree
farms, then trucked to the Ohio Department of Agriculture
in Reynoldsburg. There
they are unbaled for inspection, then baled again. The
trees are between 5-1/2 and 6 feet tall and must be
put into a 12-by-12-by-84-inch box for shipping, Galehouse
said. White pine and fir trees are the most common types
of tree sent because they are flexible, she added.
Accompanying each tree are ornaments
and other holiday related items that have been donated
by schools and civic organizations. Galehouse said she
sends information out to schools in late summer to get
interest in the project.
Ornaments can be bought or handmade.
One of the most common projects schools do is creating
paper chains to use as garland for the trees.
“Depending on the age
groups, things can be very simple
or complicated,” she said. “I’ve had
kids write essays or make ceramic ornaments and stick
them in. I’ve also seen CDs of Christmas carols
and tree toppers.”
It takes about a week for the
trees to make it to their final destination, she added.
They are in good shape when they arrive.
“Trees themselves have
a natural ability to keep from drying out,” she
said. “We just tell them to cut a half inch off
the bottom and put it in water.”
The tree farmers and those who
make the ornaments often receive letters of thanks from
the troops, Galehouse said.
One letter, from Lance Cpl. Rebecca
Blackwell, stationed in Camp Victory, Kuwait, said:
“This is a hard time of year to be out
here away from friends and family
and the tree and decor you sent us put a smile on our
faces and warmth in our hearts!”
The trees will be shipped out
this year Nov. 14.
Galehouse said more information
about the Ohio project is available at the Web site
the future she said she hopes donations from the public
can be received to help with the effort.
For more information on the national
effort of Trees for Troops, go to www.christmas
On Nov. 14, members of the Ohio
Christmas Tree Association, shown above, will meet at
the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg to
pack Christmas trees and decorations into boxes to be
sent to troops serving in the Middle East. Some of those
troops are shown at left with a Christmas tree they
courtesy of Operation Evergreen