'Gift of a Green Christmas' delivered more than 300 trees to families in need

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Hundreds of families in the Fort Collins-Loveland area have Christmas trees thanks to the charity "Gift of a Green Christmas."

The Fort Collins-based charity has been cutting down trees and delivering them to families in need the last 10 years. This year, members with the Colorado State Forest volunteered their time to cut the trees down in Pingree Park. They chopped down the lodgepole pine trees in late November, and local volunteers delivered the trees during the first two weeks of December.

81-year old Mike Schuster was one of the 317 recipients this year. Schuster hasn’t celebrated Christmas with a tree in ten years. He remembered decorating every room of his house before his wife Leoda passed away, but said now it’s not the same.

"Today is the first time in a long, long time, you saw a Marine cry," Schuster remarked as four volunteers carried in his tree.

The spirit of Christmas wasn’t the only common ground the volunteers and recipient shared. Schuster a retired Marine proudly displayed his uniform as he talked with the four volunteers, all stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, in Cheyenne, WY.

" think they got me back in the mood," said Schuster.

Before long, the group was sharing stories and even a Christmas jingle. The four young men said they were touched to see how a tree had a positive effect on the families they visited.

"It's the third tree that we've delivered and the second set of tears we've seen," said volunteer Nick Howard.  

'Gift of a Green Christmas' started ten years when the founder Ryan Behm took a young man he was mentoring through Big Brothers, Big Sisters to the mountains to pick a tree. He had such a positive experience the first year, he decided to continue the tradition.

"It's amazing to see, when those lights come on there's not a dry eye," Behm said.

As for the forest in Pingree Park, members of the state forest said thinning the trees will ultimately help the overall growth.

'Gift of a Green Christmas' also collects tree stands, lights and decorations to put on the tree. If you’d like to donate to help them next year, contact them at GOGChristmas@gmail.com.