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Clear Lakers sending X-mas trees to troops



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Fourth-grader Shelby Schefke uses her artistic skills. Photos by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2010 - The fourth-graders at Clear Lake Elementary are playing Santa Claus this year to America's troops and their families.

Each of the three classrooms is donating $30 to purchase a total of three Christmas trees as part of the "Trees for Troops" program.

"We basically wanted to do a service project to help out the troops and their families," said teacher Melissa Peruski.

Started in 2005 by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, which is the non-profit branch of the National Christmas Tree Association, the Trees for Troops program delivers free trees to service members and military families throughout the United States and in foreign lands.

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Over the last five years, the program has delivered 66,733 Christmas trees, of which 1,700 were sent to troops serving overseas. Fifty-four military bases have received Christmas trees thanks to the program.

The Christmas trees are provided by 800 tree farms and retailers in 29 states across the U.S.

The three trees to be donated by Clear Lake's fourth-graders will be purchased from the Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm in neighboring Brandon Township.

"We have participated in (Trees for Troops) from the beginning, either through tree donations or through money donations," said farm owner Catherine Genovese. "These are young families that are giving up their time, their effort and their lives, in some cases, to help the rest of us out. Giving them Christmas trees is the least we can do to bring some cheer (to their holiday season)."

Clear Lake's trees, along with about 350 others, will be picked up from the farm Nov. 29 and delivered to Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, Illinois.

The base has roughly 5,800 active duty military personnel, 2,000 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members and approximately 8,314 family members.

"Once they get there, a lot will be set up so the families that live on base can go and pick up the tree of their choice," Genovese explained.

Each of the trees from Clear Lake will contain handmade cards from the students expressing Christmas greetings, messages of hope and words of gratitude for those serving and protecting the country.

The $30 donation from each fourth-grade class will be used to cover the wholesale cost of each tree.

Each student was asked to contribute $1.

But instead of just asking their parents for a dollar, the kids have to work for it. The teachers suggested to parents that they require their children to do at least an hour's worth of chores to earn the money.

"Instead of mom or dad just giving them the dollar, this encourages them to truly give a little bit of themselves," Peruski explained.

Teachers asked parents to fill out and return a "chore record" chronicling the tasks their children completed and how much time they spent doing them.

To learn more about the Trees for Troops program, visit www.treesfortroops.org.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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