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Monday, December 03, 2012 7:41 PM

Peckham continues ‘Trees for Troops’ tradition

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer

RANTOUL — A local business is helping to bring Christmas cheer to military families across the country.

Harry Peckham, owner of Memory Lane Tree Farm in Rantoul, recently took 40 Christmas trees to Wichita as part of the Trees for Troops program.

It is the seventh holiday season Memory Lane Tree Farm, 2710 Vermont Road, Rantoul, has participated in the national program, Peckham said.

“It’s a way to show appreciation to our troops for the service they provide the country,” Peckham, whose farm produces Scotch pines, said.   

Trees for Troops, a program of the nonprofit Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, provides farm-grown Christmas Trees to armed forces members and their families in the U.S. and stationed overseas. It is part of a nationwide effort by more than 800 Christmas Tree growers in 29 states, according to the foundation’s website. More than 18,000 Christmas trees are expected to be distributed on 65 to 70 military bases in America this year, while 400 trees already were shipped to troops overseas to such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Spain.

Acting much like the man in the red suit, Peckham delivered 40 trees to the Wichita pick-up point for Trees for Troops. In addition to those grown at Peckham’s farm, trees came from three other growers in eastern Kansas: Strawberry Hill Tree Farm west of Lawrence, Pine-Apple Tree Farm in Grantville and Country Christmas Trees in Wakarusa.

Once in Wichita, the trees were combined with 60 trees donated by growers in the Wichita area and loaded on a trailer provided by FedEx Freight. The trees were destined for Ellsworth Air Force Base, Piedmont, S.D., where they could be distributed to military families on the base.

It is the eighth year for the program on the national level and the seventh year for growers in Kansas, Peckham said. And in those eight years, 104,000 trees have been distributed.

Peckham first became interested in the program while serving on the board of directors of the National Christmas Tree Association. Since that time, Peckham said, interest in the program among Kansas producers continues to grow every year.

It takes a lot of staff time to coordinate the many growers, as well as deal with the bureaucracy on the more than 60 military bases, Peckham said.

People who would like to support the Trees for Troops effort may call Peckham at (785) 878-3793.

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