The N.C. chapter of Christmas Tree Santas, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, will give away 150 live Christmas Trees on Dec. 3 at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church in Mint Hill.
Prescreened recipients from six participating partner agencies will take home a tree, lights, ornaments, and a stand. The participating agencies are: Hope Match, The Family Enrichment Movement, Dewey’s Ladder, Lutheran Family Services, Claire’s Army and Servant’s Heart.
The program is a passion of the church’s minister of outreach, Katie Sloan. A few decades ago, Sloan found herself in a situation similar to many of this year’s beneficiaries – lonely, strapped for cash, and unsure of the future.
“I have been one of those families who didn’t know if they would have a tree,” Sloan said. “I had just moved to North Carolina. I was working hard to just barely pay the bills, I was struggling, I was homesick…I was really homesick.
“I came home from work one day to find a fresh tree, ornaments, lights and a tree stand on my patio. To this day I do not know who left the tree for me, but I do know it completely turned my holiday season around. I sat on my patio and cried tears of gratitude, joy and thankfulness.”
Years later, thanks to Facebook, Sloan reconnected with a high school classmate, AnneMarie Gramling. She was surprised to find that Gramling and her husband, Alex, were spearheading Christmas Tree Santas in Newburyport, Mass., offering the same sort of holiday blessing that Sloan had received years before.
Sloan partnered with her northern friends and Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church in North Charlotte to organize the local giveaway of 100 trees in 2013. The charity, and the number of trees given away, keeps growing and now reaches seven states -- Massachusetts, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Utah. This year, Christmas Santas is on track to give away their 4,500th trees.
Sloan said while Christmas trees are the norm in many homes, to Christmas Tree Santas clients the trees serve as reminders that they are cared about and loved, and that, with faith, tomorrow will be a better day.
“It’s an incredible blessing to see the faces of the families who come to pick up a fresh Christmas tree. They tell you things like ‘we’ve never had a fresh tree before,’ or ‘you cannot imagine what this means to us,’ or ‘we didn’t think we were going to have a tree this year,’ or ‘we’ve been through so much this year, thank you for thinking of us,’” Sloan said.
“So many of us take so much for granted. A Christmas tree is a symbol of the season, but it also is the place where the family gathers and builds memories and finds hope. God is in each tree.”
Want to help?
Sloan says financial donations are still needed to pay for the trees and the tree stands. For just $25, you can adopt a tree and make the holiday season a little brighter for someone on the edge of poverty. Sponsorships are still being accepted as well. Visit http://www.christmastreesantas.org/tree-giveaways/north-carolina/ to make a donation online. All money donated to the North Carolina chapter stays in NC.
Donations of ornaments – especially handmade – also are welcome and can be dropped off at the church office of Philadelphia Presbyterian, 11501 Bain School Road, Mint Hill, during business hours or in the church parking lot on Dec. 3, 8-9 a.m. Details: , contact Sloan at 704-236-1369.