SIDE STREETS: Christmas just isn't the same without a tree

BILL VOGRIN Updated: December 7, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: December 7, 2012

Sometimes, you accidentally discover a way to help the community.

Even better, you find you just can’t stop.

Best of all, your good deed spreads.

That’s the case with David and Michelle Fein and their Christmas Tree Project.

In 2010, the couple decided to replace their artificial Christmas tree so they offered on Craigslist to give away their old tree.

Bang!

“In an incredibly short period of time we got 20 responses,” David told me. “There was a soldier coming back from Afghanistan who didn’t have money for a tree. Single moms who were out of work. Wounded vets. A boys home. People who were sick.”

So David and Michelle gave their tree to a family with a 1-year-old daughter. Then they thought about all the others who responded in need of a tree.

Michelle decided to use a $20 gift from her boss to buy another tree to give to the group home for boys.

Then they told their friend about the response and about their idea to buy a tree for everyone who responded.

A little publicity in The Gazette helped spread the word and before they were done, the couple had given away 300 trees.

“The town responded incredibly,” said David, who owns ValuSource, a business software design company.

In 2011, they gave away another 300 trees.

They are at it again this year with an even broader approach that has led to trees being distributed in Los Angeles, Florida, Tennessee and other places the Feins never dreamed.

They’ve done it with word of mouth by mentioning the project to friends and business acquaintances. For example, David told his dentist, Dr. Julia Rohleder, about it and she volunteered her Downtown Dentist office, 105 N. Tejon St., as a collection point for trees, ornaments and gift donations.

“I just think it’s a neat idea,” Julia told me. “One of the things everybody remembers about being a kid is their Christmas tree and ornaments. I have ornaments from when I was a kid. And it seems sad to me that someone might miss out on that memory.”

So she mentioned the project and her participation on Facebook and spread the word.

In addition, the Feins found a volunteer in Ireland to build the project a website, www.TheChristmasTreeProject.org. As a result, the requests for trees are coming from places far beyond Colorado Springs.

“A single mom in Los Angeles with an autistic son wanted a tree,” David said. “So I called the Los Angeles Rotary Club and told them I needed an elf.”

After describing his situation, the Hollywood Rotary Club promised to get a tree, ornaments and decorations and deliver them to the woman.

“I’ve got thousands of clients around the country,” David said. “I’ll try anyone I can. I’ll cold-call churches. Or Rotary Clubs. Or whatever. And people just respond.”

Going national was never in the plan. But that’s OK because the project wasn’t really planned. It just happened. And the Feins are happy and proud that it did.

“It’s totally unbelievable,” David said. “People are dropping off trees. Others offer to deliver them. We do whatever it takes. Our mission is: Where-ever a tree needs to be delivered, we’ll try to get it there.”

The Feins deal in artificial and live trees, thanks to donations from tree farmers. They gather ornaments and lights and decorations. And they distribute candy canes and presents. Whatever they have to distribute.

Besides hundreds of trees, the project has given away 700 ornaments, 1,000 candy canes and more than a mile of lights.

But they aren’t done. Julia Rohleder is inviting drop-offs at her office during business hours. In fact, the storage area her dental office has plenty of room for trees.

And the Feins are accepting donations at space made available by his landlord at 4575 Galley Road, Suite 200E, between Academy and Powers boulevards.

David said the project has changed the couple’s life.

“These are people who are hurting,” he said. “It’s heart-wrenching when they can’t provide a Christmas tree for their kids. It hurts.

“That tree represents hope, love, caring and community.”

As for the response of friends and strangers alike, David is blown  away:

“It’s just miraculous.”

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