Around 100 volunteers arrived at a local tree farm Monday to load roughly 500 donated Christmas trees into trucks that will transport them to military families in time for the holiday season.
The crowd of volunteers exchanged excited greetings, catching up with old friends before the event began Monday, Dec. 2. Event organizer Betsy Wahmhoff-Perales wove through the crowd, checking to make sure all volunteers were checked in and ready for the day’s work.
Wahmhoff Farms Nursery has hosted this event since 2006, Dan Wahmhoff said. This is something he looks forward to hosting annually and Monday’s event was no different, Wahmhoff said.
“I am very proud of our troops and very supportive of our troops,” he said. “We want to do something to give back to that they’re doing.”
The event is held in partnership with national nonprofit Trees for Troops. The organization was founded in 2005, and the organization delivers donated Christmas trees to military families each holiday season. According to its Facebook age, the organization delivers thousands of trees each year. This year, the goal is to donate 18,000 trees.
Wahmhoff Farms Nursery provides crews to load the trees and a consistent location for the event to take place each year, but it is also a nationwide event with donation sites located all around the country. For the event at Wahmhoff, donations are brought in from farms spread across the larger region.
“We are just one little piece in the whole puzzle,” Wahmhoff-Perales said.
This year, the trees collected in Gobles are being taken to Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Hood in Texas. The cost of freight transportation is donated by shipping provider FedEx.
Volunteers were tasked with helping load all 500 donated evergreens into two freight trucks. Veterans, active-duty military members, public service workers and community members all volunteered at the event.
They lined up between the stacks, grabbed a tree, brought it over to a truck and placed it on a conveyor belt sending it up into the bed of the truck. With the help of volunteers, it took a little over 30 minutes to get all 500 trees loaded into the trucks.
Some volunteers have been coming to the event for years, and always look forward to helping out.
“This is my favorite day of the year, coming out and supporting the troops,” said Lon Schafer, who was dressed in his Gobles Pine Grove Fire Department uniform. This year, Schafer also enlisted the help of his 3-year-old niece, Addy Burson.
“It’s a great time and you get to see all the people out here who love to help out,” Schafer said.
Volunteer Sue LaCoss said the weather this year, cloudy with temperatures in the low 30s, was much better than last year, when snow was falling and slush was puddling around their feet as they loaded trees.
Jim Addessi, a U.S. military veteran who served from 1967-1972, said he has been coming to the event every year for the last decade and is always impressed with the turnout.
“These people are just out of this world, great,” Addessi said. “You consider the amount of trees, and volunteers, this whole situation is just a wonderful thing.”
In addition to Wahmhoff, other donating tree farms in the region this year included Armentrout’s West Michigan Farms Inc., Badger County Christmas Trees, Janke Tree Farm, Gwinn’s Christmas Tree Farm, Korson’s Tree Farms and Peterson Farms Inc.
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