Dave Curtin, middle, hands a Christmas tree to John Kogut, left, as they help load a FedEx truck for the Trees for Troops donation at Critz Farms. Kogut, owner of Spruce Ridge Landscape and Design in Nelson, and Curtin, one of Kogut’s employees, were part of the tree loading crew Friday morning. (photo by Jason Emerson)
In what has become an annual tradition in the Cazenovia area, local businesses, organizations and individuals this week helped a national foundation gather and send nearly 100 Christmas trees to the families of military service members throughout the United States. Trees for Troops, a nationwide program of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation in conjunction with FedEx Corp., made a stop at Critz Farms in Cazenovia to collect trees donated by Christmas tree growers throughout Central New York.
“Knowing that we are making a difference for families who maybe are not together this year, and folks away from home, it just feels good,” said Critz Farms co-owner Juanita Critz. “Last year we received emails [from tree recipients] with photos of the trees we sent; that’s when you just know you are making a difference.”
With Trees for Troops, volunteers collect, prepare and load hundreds of donated trees onto FedEx Freight trucks to be delivered to U.S. troops and military families at more than 65 military bases in the U.S. and overseas. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the program.
Since 2005, more than 208,000 free, farm-grown Christmas trees have been provided through the program, with more than 17,000 real Christmas trees expected to be delivered this year, according to the organization’s website, treesfortroops.org.
In Cazenovia on Friday, Nov. 30, a half-dozen volunteers loaded 75 trees from three local growers onto the FedEx truck. Volunteers included the Critzes; Jimmy Page, one of the owners of Page’s Christmas Trees in Manlius; Jon Kogut, owner of Spruce Ridge Landscape and Garden Center of Nelson, and one of his employees, Dave Curtin; and three members of Cazenovia American Legion Post 88, Bill Goldsworthy, Bill Robinson and Kevin Markowski.
“My brother is in the Air Force, so this is something we are passionate about, and it’s to a really great cause,” said Page, of Page’s Christmas Trees, who also helped load trees Friday morning.
“Post 88 is proud to participate in the Trees for Troops program. It means a lot for veterans to be actively involved in programs that support the men, women and families who are serving in our Armed Forces. It also means a great deal to servicemen and women to know that they have the support of the people at home,” said Cazenovia American Legion Post 88 Commander Dick Benner.
The Critzes, who grow and sell Christmas trees on their farm, have been donating their own trees to Trees for Troops for years, during which the nearest collection point was in Jordan. In 2014, Critz Farms became a collection point for the program and helped recruit other local growers to participate.
The local tree growers and donors whose trees were collected from the Critz Farms collection location included: Critz Farms, Page’s Christmas Trees and Moore Tree Farm in Groton.
The trees from the Central New York area that were loaded in Cazenovia will be shipped to Fort Knox in Kentucky.
To learn more, visit TreesForTroops.org or call 800-965-1653.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.