All David Fein was trying to do a few weeks ago was unload an old artificial Christmas tree on Craigslist.
Within a matter of hours, however, that simple, almost reflexive act of e-commerce turned him into a man on a mission, a Johnny Christmas Tree who is trying to raise money to buy artificial trees for people who can barely afford to put food on the table or keep the heat on.
“I never realized how much a Christmas tree means to people,” Fein said Monday.
Fein, a father, grandfather and CEO of a successful software company, learned that lesson after he posted his ad on Craigslist. More than a dozen people responded in about an hour – so many, in fact, that he had to take the ad down after promising the tree to a young couple with a baby. But the touching comments from people who wanted that old artificial tree stuck with him:
-- If this is still available, I would like to get it for my son and grandson. My son is a single dad and is trying to build traditions with his son, but money is tight.
-- I have 6 kids n no tree.. we would like if still available..
-- I will take the tree if you still have it, things have been tough for me and the kids this year and this would help.
-- If this tree is still available I sure could use it. My kids are 6 and 9. We wont have a lot under it this year but there will be something there.
-- my husband broke his leg 5 weeks ago and we are really struggling...We need a tree desperatley.. Please give me a call or shoot me a text ..
-- It will be my daughters first christmas and we just dont have the $$ for a tree
“If I’m getting dozens of responses in an hour, what does that mean for all the people in Colorado Springs who don’t have a Christmas tree?” Fein said.
So Fein went out and bought a new tree to give to someone else who had responded to his ad, using his own money and a $20 donation from the principal of a school where his wife works. He told friends what was going on, and they gave him money to buy one more. A project was born: the Christmas Tree Project.
“Every person who has gotten a tree is so touched,” Fein said. “I wondered if there was a way to make this bigger.”
How big? Fein doesn’t know. Everything percolated so quickly that he hasn’t had time to research turning his project into a nonprofit or creating a board and by-laws. All he knows is that there’s a need, and he hopes the community will help him fill it.
“I have a group pf people willing to do whatever it takes,” Fein said. “As many donations as we get, we’ll figure out how to deliver every tree.”
Yes, these are artificial trees – appalling to some people who can’t fathom anything but a fresh specimen for their homes. But Felice Liquori, director of a Rocky Mountain Kids, is elated to have an artificial tree that Fein gave her to put into one of her group homes.
“It will do us good for many, many years, so that’s one expenditure we won’t have to worry about for a few years,” she said. “The funding we receive is the bare minimum to get by.”
Fein is making sure that the trees are Norman Rockwell-worthy, covered with lights and tinsel and candy canes – “the complete Christmas tree set-up,” he said.
“It’s a gorgeous tree,” Liquori said. “This man definitely did a wonderful job of providing a very nice tree. The boys were real excited; they’re very, very grateful for it.”
TO DONATE OR REQUEST A TREE
Call 799-6025 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Cash donations also are being accepted at Sammy’s Organics, 830 Arcturus.
On Facebook: Search under “The Christmas Tree Project” and look for the tree icon.