For Todd Kittell, helping supply Christmas trees to the families of soldiers and marines hits particularly close to home.
His cousin is currently stationed in Iraq; his wife and children will spend this Christmas alone. Kittell's father and grandfathers all served in the military, and he himself enlisted in the Marines after graduating from Jordan-Elbridge high school in June. So when the opportunity came up to help the Trees For Troops effort last week, he jumped at the chance.
"It definitely helps out morale a lot," Kittell said. That's why he volunteered to help Thursday when 92 trees were loaded onto a FedEx truck at Brown's Three B Tree nursery in Jordan.
The trees, donated from Brown's and two other Central New York Christmas tree farms, will this week make their way to Fort Benning, Ga. and Fort Storey, Va., where they will be given to military families who may not otherwise be able to afford a Christmas tree, said Dick Darling, New York co-chair for Trees for Troops.
"We try to show a warm feeling to families and soldiers," said Darling, who owns Darling's Tree Farm in Clifton Springs. "It's a tough time to be away from home."
Most trees are donated by Christmas tree farms and nurseries, but individuals can also help out by donating money towards a tree or purchasing an entire tree. And participating tree farms will "bank" a donation anytime of year to be used toward the next Trees for Troops drive, Darling said.
This was the fourth year Brown's Three B. owners Cathy and Rob Brown have participated in the Trees for Troops, and the first year that the nursery was a collection site for the organization. Last year, Brown's trees stayed local, and were donated to families at Fort Drum, Cathy Brown said.
Even though their trees will travel much farther this year to spread the holiday spirit, being a part of the effort is just as meaningful, Brown said.