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The custom of the Christmas tree in the United States began in 1777 when a Hessian soldier purportedly put one up. Today, that tradition continues with aid from Trees for Troops. The program provides free, farm-grown Christmas trees to U.S. armed forces members and their families through donations, sponsorships, grants and the work of many volunteers.
Since 2005, Trees for Troops (treesfortroops.org) has provided 103,186 trees. In 2011, the program reached an all-time high by delivering 19,229 farm-grown trees (18,769 domestically, 460 overseas). Trees were donated by 750 Christmas tree growers, retailers, and their customers, from 28 states.
FedEx has provided shipping of the trees from the beginning. Each year, FedEx Express delivers hundreds of fresh-cut trees overseas, and FedEx Freight ships thousands to families at military bases across the United States.
Stan Bradford, operations department of FedEx Freight, has scheduled pickups from tree farmers and routed trailers for deliveries at military bases for the past five years.
When planning for Trees for Troops, he first identifies pick-up locations, the number of trees at each location and availability. Next, he works with military bases to secure delivery dates and requested trees. Finally, he plans deliveries using the most efficient locations while minimizing the re-handling of trees at service centers.
According to Bradford, delivering live trees is very different from delivering freight. The trees are not neatly secured on skids like freight; they are individually bailed wrapped in netting. The plan is to minimize the handling of the trees due to the labor-intensive process. Over-handling increases the risk of damage to the trees and increases dock clean up afterwards. Ideally, a tree is loaded on one trailer at the pickup location and stays on that trailer to be delivered to a military base.
For the past few years, the volume of trees has been between 16-18 thousand. As a result, FedEx Freight averages traveling 55 thousand miles for Trees for Troops during mid-November through early December.
For Bradford, the best part of his work with the program is helping to honor the military families in a small way for their daily sacrifices for our freedom.
“The FedEx team considers it a privilege to help coordinate Trees for Troops,” says Bradford. “As an Army veteran, I am glad that FedEx is taking this step to support these very deserving men, women and families.”
The 100,000th tree was delivered to a Marine family at Camp Pendleton, Calif. on Dec. 9, 2011. Sergeants Jonathan and Jessica Felix were excited to receive the live tree to help celebrate their first Christmas in the home they had recently purchased.
“It’s unbelievable what people do for the military. We are so appreciative of it,” said Jessica. “This tree helps us start a new Christmas tradition in our new home.” wt