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Christmas Trees, Living on a Budget and Wonderful Volunteers

Years ago, when I was working at a nonprofit in another state, I had an assistant  who was one of the most outgoing, happy and hardworking persons I have ever met. She was also the same age as me (30) and had a 14 year old daughter. Yes, the math says she was 16 when she became a mother. One day, as we were driving to a meeting, she pointed out a large evergreen bush in front of an unoccupied industrial building. She told me the story of how one year, she could not afford a Christmas tree and so instead took a very large branch from the back of that bush and brought it home and decorated it for her young daughter.

2011 Target Share A Tree Louisa County 035Having grown up in a protected suburban bubble, this was the first time I had realized that for many families, a Christmas tree is a big expense. Perhaps that is why I so wholeheartedly embraced the Target stores’ Share-A-Tree program when their store opened in Charlottesville.

For 21 years, Target stores across the country have donated a couple of special display Christmas trees to their local United Way to give to families or a local nonprofit organization. We are so fortunate that our local store manager may actually be Santa’s special envoy, because he donates ALL of the store’s display Christmas trees to us each year. This year there were 24 trees.

We try to spread the joy every year by working with a different local organization to identify families who are struggling to make ends meet. These artificial trees enable families to keep money in their pockets each holiday season by eliminating the need to purchase a new tree each year. Whether you are a real or fake tree aficionado, you can agree that this makes good economic sense for these families.

In past years, we have worked with the Charlottesville City Public Housing Association of Residents, Love Inc.(which put us in touch with local churches), MACAA and GRACE in Greene County. This year, it was not hard to see that the people in hard-hit Louisa County, the epicenter of the August earthquake, could use some extra holiday cheer. So we contacted Donna Isom at the Louisa Resource Council, who immediately began finding homes for the trees. Two of the trees, which were quite high-tech looking as they were made of black tinsel, were given to Computers4Kids here in Charlottesville, to be decorated using a technology theme.

Ryan McKillip, regional manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, has provided us with a box truck for the fourth year in a row, and looks forward to volunteering to pick up and deliver the trees each year. Henry Graff, reporter for NBC29, joined as a volunteer last year when we delivered to his Greene County neighbors, and has now made this an annual volunteer effort (of course producing a news story along the way). The three of us are beginning to be a well-oiled machine.

Here is the link to our still photos from the day, and below is Henry’s story.


In addition, Bryan McKenzie of The Daily Progress, put his signature spin on the story in his column this week. Many thanks to the good folks at Target’s national headquarters, and many more to the employees of our local store for embracing and enhancing this wonderful concept.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. That is what is means to Live United.


Posted by: Kim Connolly

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