Wisconsin growers to donate 850 evergreens for Trees for Troops

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
File photo: Jon Bigler of Rolling Hills Tree Farm loads up a truck at the Lambeau Field parking lot with donated Christmas trees for Trees for Troops program. This year 22 member farms of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association are aiming to donate 850 trees to members of the armed forces.

Trees for Troops have delivered nearly a quarter million real Christmas trees to military personnel across the country and beyond for the past 15 years.

On Nov. 30, approximately 850 trees donated by 22 Christmas tree growers across Wisconsin will be loaded into FedEx trucks in three locations across the state and shipped off to 80 military bases.

Paul Schroeder, owner of North Countree Christmas Inc. in Wausaukee, Wis., orchestrates the Trees for Troops effort on the national level as Immediate Past President of the National Christmas Tree Association.

Schroeder, who started his tree farm in 1990 with wife, Ruth, will be on hand at Lambeau Field to load the fresh trees.

Last year Trees for Troops delivered 18,636 farm-grown Christmas Trees donated by roughly 400 Christmas Tree growers, retailers, and their customers in 25 states. 

"The Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association is hoping to send 17,000 farm grown trees this year to members of the military and their families from coast to coast," Schroeder said. 

In addition to donations from tree farms, Schroeder says there is a FedEx trailer parked on the site of a large cut-your-own tree lot that invites customers to help fill the trailer with donated trees. 

"We hope to collect an additional 100 trees that way through donations," he said.

The Christmas tree grower says the effort wouldn't be possible without their partnership with FedEx. 

In 2005, the multinational delivery services company contacted the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable branch of the National Christmas Tree Association, and wanted to be involved in the foundation’s mission, which is to advance the Christmas Spirit for kids, families and the environment through programs and activities.

Paul Schroeder, owner of North Countree Christmas Inc. in Wausaukee, Wis., orchestrates the Trees for Troops effort on the national level as Immediate Past President of the President of the National Christmas Tree Association.

Together the two organizations expanded the idea of providing Christmas Trees to military families, and Trees for Troops was born.

"FedEx delivers the trees as a goodwill gesture. Each year they put on some 50,000 miles," Schroeder said.

According to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, FedEx has logged more than 959,551 U.S. ground miles for the Trees for Troops program since it began in 2005.

Schroeder says there will be less miles traveled this year due to the pandemic.

"We won't be shipping trees overseas because of the coronavirus," he said. "However, they are planning a different program for some military bases overseas."

RELATED: Pandemic weary families opt for fresh Christmas trees

RELATED: Alice in Dairyland cuts down Wisconsin's first Christmas tree 

Oregon, Wis., Christmas tree grower Greg Hann who is in charge of the Madison Trees for Troops collection point, says its an honor to supply freshly cut trees for those serving the country.

"We feel we can give them a little bit of the feeling of Christmas especially for those who are stuck on bases and can't come home to their families for the holidays," Hann said. 

The gesture of the donated evergreens does not go unheeded by the soldiers and their families. Schroeder says trees that find their way to military bases and the homes of soldiers have identification tags attached with the name and address of the growers.

"We receive numerous letters from soldiers. Sometimes its their first tree or maybe it's the first time they're apart from their families during Christmas. Just receiving those letters is a reward for us," he said. 

Schroeder says donating trees to service personnel is the least his association can do for the men and women serving in the armed forces.

"Here we're out here living the good life and their spending time away from their families, many times overseas in less than ideal situations," Schroeder said. "We can at least send them a little Christmas cheer."

Donation tags attached to Christmas trees allow soldiers to see where their trees were grown and also gives them an opportunity to reach out to the Christmas tree growers.