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Lead "Elf" Connects Struggling Families with Free Christmas Trees

The price of Christmas trees is expected to increase by as much as 10 percent this year. (Pixabay)
The price of Christmas trees is expected to increase by as much as 10 percent this year. (Pixabay)
December 21, 2017

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – For many people, Christmas is just not complete without a decorated tree inside a warm home.

David Fein, who describes himself as the "lead Elf" for the all-volunteer Christmas Tree Project, has made it his mission to get free trees to families struggling financially. Fein said what began in Colorado Springs in 2010 with $20 and an internet post has grown into a national project.

"Our first one-line ad on Craigslist that said 'Free Christmas tree to a family with children' struck a chord, which is why we did this,” Fein said. "We got 20 responses in an hour. This year we will have over 2,500 requests for Christmas trees across the country."

The project's first Christmas tree went to a family with an 11-month-old girl, and then Fein reached deeper to answer a second request from a local group home for boys. Today, Fein scours the nation for tree donations, and the project's website collects donations to purchase trees when necessary.

The trees also come with ornaments, lights, candy canes and tinsel.

Fein said he's come to realize trees symbolize different things to different people during the winter holidays, including generosity, caring, love, and hope.

"People have a deep emotional connection to what a Christmas tree means,” he said. "And the reverse is true; they have a very negative and painful experience if they really want a tree and they can't get one. I can't tell you how many emails we've gotten and requests that say, 'I don't want to let my kids down.'"

Fein said the giving spirit can be infectious. One tree request this year came from community members in Phoenix who recently had helped a homeless woman with two young children move in to an apartment.

When Fein got on the phone with the head of the garden department at a local Home Depot store, Fein said the man – named Mr. Roger – didn't ask any questions. He just said, "Send them down here."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO