The aroma of balsam firs from Nova Scotia scented the air as more than 600 Christmas trees were delivered to Marine Corps families aboard Cherry Point Monday morning.
“It’s piney. It smells fresh,” said Lance Cpl. Nekia Taylor, of Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28, as she joined about 20 Marines in offloading the trees from Federal Express trucks that had brought the trees from Bangor, Maine, after they were delivered from Canada.
“I just like lending a helping hand and just getting in the spirit of Christmas,” Taylor said. “Everyone seems jolly and happy, and it’s good to see the different families come down and just put a smile on their face. It’s just good to see people smile and get into the spirit of Christmas and lend a helping hand.”
Beth McKenzie marketing director for Marine Corps Community Services, helped organize the annual free Christmas tree delivery through the Christmas Spirit Foundations, which provides free Christmas trees to 62 bases in the United States and abroad.
“It’s been at least six or seven years that they’ve been doing it here at Cherry Point and every year it gets bigger and bigger,” she said.
She said the base received about 500 trees last year and got 600 this year.
“We’ve already got people lined up for a couple of miles down the road so I think we’ll probably distribute most of those,” she said Monday morning.
Randy Stoe, service center manager for the FedEx Freight Terminal in Greenville, has been driving the trees for three years.
“It’s probably the most rewarding experience in my career with FedEx,” he said. “This is a wonderful day.”
He said Federal Express offers free freight for the tree shipment, and said the company has driven about 350,000 miles in delivering about 103,000 trees in eight years of involvement with the program.
About 80 tree farms in the United States and Canada participate in the program. McKenzie said a tree farm based in Massachusetts with farms in Canada provided this year’s trees to Cherry Point, along with personal notes to those receiving them.
“When the troops get the tree and the card, it makes them feel really great,” McKenzie said. “It’s huge for them. It’s the little things. A lot of people think that in this economy that the military members are on a steady paycheck but they have families, they have young children. They have a lot of financial responsibilities. A lot of them that get the trees are spouses. Their husband is deployed and they’re not here to help them pick out the tree, set up the tree, and the fact that they can just come here and get the tree, it makes it so much easier for them to have a Christmas for them while their husband is deployed.”
The Marines appreciated the trees.
“It helps us out a lot and makes it possible for us not to have to spend the money on Christmas trees and be able to afford more presents for our kids,” said Cpl. Devin Batten. “I’m pretty sure there are a lot more families that appreciate it just as much as I do.”
Batten, his wife Teesha, and their baby Alexis waited an hour in a long line of cars at the Hancock Creek Marina to get a tree.
Lance Cpl. Chasten Jackson-Rogers appreciated the support of the community.
“Sometimes we can’t afford those things or can’t find time to go get Christmas trees so I thought it was really helpful at least,” Rogers said. “I’ll try to save up and get a few more presents. I think it’s a really great idea.”