February 27, 2009
Local Christmas Tree Farmers Join National Campaign to Honor Troops
By Kelly Jordal, Public Information Officer
HANNIBAL - Christmas may be over, but nearly a dozen local Christmas tree farmers are already thinking about the season ahead, and those who can use a little extra help. Together with the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) and FedEx, they plan for their annual Trees for Troops campaign year-round. Participants in the program collect Christmas trees from around the country for shipment to military personnel stationed in the U.S. and abroad.
“Now in its fourth year, this program is a great opportunity for us to show our respect and gratitude to the men and women who serve our country,” said Oswego County Legislator Jack Beckwith, District 21 and owner of Beckwith Family Christmas Tree Station. “Last year, we shipped nearly 18,000 Christmas trees to our troops stationed at 53 bases in the U.S. and around the world. Some deliveries were made as close as Fort Drum in Watertown and others went to military stations overseas.”
Beckwith’s tree farm has participated in the program since its inception and serves as a point of collection for 10 area Christmas tree farmers. Once the trees are collected from local growers, military personnel arrive to collect the trees and transfer them to a central location in the state. From there, FedEx organizes the shipment of the trees to locations around the world.
The Trees for Troops program works with the five branches of the military and the National Guard to coordinate the delivery of the trees to military families with an emphasis on those that have a family member serving overseas. Attached to each tree is a tag with care tips and positive messages for the troops and their families.
“The holiday season is one of the most difficult times of the year for military members and their families to be apart,” Beckwith added. “While this program doesn’t fill that void, it does help to ease their burden and bring some joy to them during that time.”
The troops and their families are grateful for the extra help during the holiday season.
Lisa from Colorado writes, “Thank you for donating the trees to military families. My husband has had to miss many holidays, birthdays and special events over the years. It never gets any easier, but we do our best to cope. I picked up my tree today at Fort Carson and it is one of the most beautiful trees my family has had. Thank you for thinking of us, we really do appreciate it.”
Some have found unique ways to express their gratitude:
Bill and Liz from Washington write, “Thanks to all the organizations and employees that made Trees for Troops possible this year. We appreciate the beautiful tree provided to us this year at Fort Lewis. The money we didn’t spend on a tree went to buying food for junior enlisted soldiers and their families for their Christmas dinners. Because of your gift, we were able to pay it forward.”
To date, more than 50,000 trees have been donated to the Trees for Troops program.
Beckwith added, “Christmas tree farmers and FedEx have donated trees and transportation in this program. Individuals can add their support by purchasing an extra tree, volunteering their time or making a donation at any one of the participating tree farms.
Local Christmas tree farmers who participate in the Trees for Troops program include: Jack and Faye Beckwith, Beckwith Family Christmas Tree Station, Hannibal; Paul Czeron, Emerald Mist, Oswego; Milferd Darling, Darling’s Tree Farm, Hannibal; Lyle and Sylvia Goodman, Goodman’s Christmas Tree Farms, Phoenix; Dennis and June Ouellette, Ontario Orchards, Oswego; Will Ruby, Spring Pond Farm, Mexico; Dick Trust, Trust Nursery, Pulaski; Chuck Hafner, Chuck’s Tree Farm, North Syracuse; John Leonard, Leonard’s Evergreens, Martville; Bob Norris, Norris Family Farm, Red Creek; and David Zukovsky, Tri Star Farms, Martville.
Last year, Beckwith found another way to make a contribution to the Trees for Troops campaign. He released his first CD, Christmas Time Again, which included a song that he wrote for the program, “I’m Comin’ Home - A Tribute to the Troops”.
“The song just came to me,” said Beckwith. “A couple of years ago, I was in Nashville for the NCTA’s annual meeting and was inspired by the Trees for Troops program. I woke up in the middle of the night and had to write it all down.”
Beckwith wrote two more songs for the disc, “Gone Astray”, which came from his work in politics, and the title track, “Christmas Time Again”.
Beckwith may be a newcomer to songwriting, but he is no stranger to the world of music. He began playing the trumpet in grade school and took up the guitar as a teen. In 1972, he founded the band, Anticipation. He led the group for fifteen years, as they played parties and weddings throughout Oswego County and in the Syracuse and Rochester areas. It was in his band that Beckwith first worked with Jeff Sawyer, who produced this CD.
“Jeff is a music teacher in the Hannibal High School, but years ago, we played in Anticipation together,” said Beckwith. “It was in his studio that we put this CD together. Jeff also introduced Kate Lee (of No Strings Attached) to the project. She and Ernie Terpening, another Hannibal musician, generously provided their talents to the single, “Gone Astray."
Music has been a mainstay throughout much of Beckwith’s life, but it has not been his only passion. A natural leader, he served in the Oswego County Legislature from 1990 through 1995 before leaving to tend to his varied business interests.
Together with Faye, his wife of 44 years, Beckwith owns and operates three separate businesses: Freedom Real Estate, the North Pole Barbershop, and the award-winning Beckwith Family Christmas Tree Station.
In 2005, the tree farm won the NCTA National Marketer of the Year Award. The following year, NCTA named their wreath entry Grand Champion in their national competition. Beckwith’s wreaths have also won first prize in two Northeast Regional competitions. In addition, their Christmas trees and greens have been featured in the holiday issue of Family Circle magazine, as well as in the MacKenzie-Childs showroom in Aurora, the Savannah Dhu Preserve in Savannah and in the personal residence of Bob Congel, founder and chairman of Destiny USA.
In 2004, when Oswego County faced one of its most difficult fiscal years, Beckwith returned to his seat in the legislature. Now, after representing his district for over a decade, Beckwith expects that this may be his final year in the political arena.
Beckwith has found that, as a small business owner in a challenging economic climate, his ventures require more of his attention. In addition to his businesses, he plans to devote more time to songwriting. He is currently working on a song he has titled, “Caribbean Nights”.
You don’t have to wait for this year’s holiday season to help support the Trees for Troops program.
Beckwith’s CD, Christmas Time Again, is available for purchase at the Beckwith Family Christmas Tree Station on Mill Street in Hannibal for $10 plus tax. A portion of proceeds from the CD sales goes to the NCTA to support the Trees for Troops program.
If you would like to purchase a tree, volunteer your time or make a donation to the Trees for Troops program, you may do so at any participating Christmas tree farm.
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