The iconic image of wide-eyed children gathered around the decked-out Christmas tree, opening presents piled beneath its branches, is pretty hard for families to pull off when they don’t have the green for an evergreen.
This is where David and Michelle Fein enter the picture. The Colorado Springs couple, along with a cadre of friends and family, are on a mission to make sure that people who can’t afford a tree will get one. For the second consecutive year, they’re hoping the community will donate artificial trees, as well as the accoutrements to gussy them up, so they can give them to people in need.
“It’s incredible what it means for people who can’t afford a tree — especially parents with children,” David Fein said. “It symbolizes something very deep.”
The Feins’ Christmas Tree Project began last year as a fluke. They had an old artificial tree they wanted to give away, so David Fein posted an ad on Craigslist in early December. Within an hour, he received more than a dozen responses from people who laid out their heart-rending stories in requesting the tree.
Fein gave his tree away, then bought another for one of the people who answered the ad, using his own money plus $20 his wife had received from the school principal where she works, with the instructions to “go out and do something good.”
As the Feins told friends about the doleful stories he was hearing in response to the Craigslist ad, they got involved as well, and once local media outlets reported the budding effort, strangers joined the cause. Within a few weeks, the newly named Christmas Tree Project had received 110 artificial trees, delivered by about 15 volunteers to recipients who would later swamp the Feins with heartfelt notes of gratitude.
“Our commitment was, if anyone had a tree to donate and couldn’t get it to us, we said we’d come pick it up,” Fein said. “And we made the commitment, if anyone needs a tree, we’ll deliver it. We were delivering from Monument to Peyton to Fountain.”
Tough Tool Rental Center in Fountain also got involved, giving out about 200 live trees that were left on the lot in the days leading up to Christmas.
“It was an amazing thing all the way around,” Fein said. “I think everyone, from those who gave a tree to those who got a tree, was touched by the generosity in town.”
With the economy still in the doldrums, Fein believes there will still be many people this year who can’t afford a tree.
“So we need artificial trees, decorations, ornaments and things like that,” he said. “Our goal is to give away fully decorated trees with lights and tinsel and candy canes and the whole thing.”
The on-the-fly nature of last year’s effort has given way to a more organized approach this year. The landlord of the building where Fein operates his software company has donated space to store trees, and the Christmas Tree Project has already received 12 artificial trees and about $400 in donations. Volunteers are lined up, and his employees are pitching in. In response to an ad for someone to develop a website for the project, a man from Ireland offered to do the job for free.
“Everybody has that reaction,” Fein said. “It’s almost automatic: ‘How can I help? What can I do?’”
For more information on the Christmas Tree Project, call 799-6025; e-mail email@example.com; or go to thechristmastreeproject.org, where PayPal and credit card donations can be made.
Trees and decorations can be dropped off at the ValuSource office, 4575 Galley Road, Suite 200E, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Mondays through Fridays. Call for weekend dropoffs, or if you need to have a tree picked up.