Offer of tree grows into annual event
Michelle and David Fein only wanted to get rid of their fake Christmas tree with a simple Craiglist post: “Free Christmas tree to a family with children.”
But the responses to the Colorado Springs couple’s post led them much further. Within hours, 20 people were asking for the artificial tree, and explaining why they needed it. “I have 6 kids and no tree. … We would like it if it’s still available,” wrote one.
“My kids are 6 and 9. We won’t have a lot under it this year but there will be something there,” said another.
Another: “My husband broke his leg five weeks ago and we are really struggling. We need a tree desperately.”
The Feins gave their tree to a family with an 11month-old baby and bought another tree for a group home for boys that responded to the ad. But they couldn’t stop thinking about the rest of the people who asked. “It just hit us,” David Fein said. “It was pretty amazing.”
They told their friends, the story ended up in the Colorado Springs Gazette and, within 12 days, they had given away more than 300 trees.
That was 2010. Since then, the Christmas Tree Project has given away more than 1,500 trees, fake and fresh. The organization has received about 1,000 requests for trees in the last 30 days, mainly from people in Colorado Springs and Denver but also from across the country. A 14-year-old boy from Arkansas whose mother recently died said his tree would be a “symbol of hope,” recalled Fein, who runs a small software company in Colorado Springs.
“I’ve had so many people tell me that if they had a choice between presents and a tree, they would choose a tree,” Fein said. “Metaphorically, it’s a light in your house, a glowing presence.”
Each tree comes with lights, ornaments, tinsel and candy canes. The project is run 100 percent by donations of artificial and real trees, decorations and ornaments, and volunteer workers. To donate or request a tree, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 719-799-6070.