While Veterans Day is usually the one day of rest before Trees From Home sends thousands of miniature Christmas Trees to troops overseas, this year was a different story. With so many last-minute requests coming in from other military commanders, John Stulmacher said he just couldn't say no.
"It’s a no-brainer, you just have to work harder," Stulmacher said.
Instead of spending Veterans Day together with his mom, Julie Stulmacher, John worked to raise more money for the trees at his legion post while Julie was crafting more last-minute trees.
"The calls came in late to go over the goal, so yesterday we actually ended up having an emergency crafting workshop," John said. "It’s usually the rest day before the big day today."
This year's goal was to send 2,000 trees to troops — but, by Monday morning, the team had assembled, packaged and was ready to ship a total 2,549 trees.
"With all the hype on pulling out troops, we didn’t think we could find enough addresses, but they just started coming in, and — as of last week — I thought we’d have 1,000 trees left over ... and all the addresses kept coming in," Julie said.
As temperatures dropped Monday morning, about a dozen volunteers with Trees From Home and Bell Ambulance helped load more than 2,500 trees into the back of a few ambulances. This total more than doubles the amount from when the program launched in 2009, with 1,030 trees shipped overseas that year.
Christopher Anderson works for Bell and went to high school with Stulmacher. When Trees From Home began, Stulmacher approached Anderson for help getting the trees from the workshop above Winkie's to the Lydell Ave. post office a few blocks away.
"Anything we can do, we’re happy to do it," Anderson said. "It’s three hours out of our day, but it means a lot to a lot of people."
Bridgette Bugni is on the Trees From Home Board of Directors but her journey with the group began when her son, a marine, received a tree while was in Oakanawa.
"We didn’t know where it came from," Bugni said. "He found Julie’s name on the box and about half a year later, I found out she was right here in Wisconsin. So, I started coming down here and decorating trees."
To date, Trees From Home has sent more than 5,000 trees to troops overseas.
"One thing I like about this project, instead of just picking one or two days a year, like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, it spreads it out between Veterans Day and Memorial day for people to think about those who have served," John said. "I think it’s really neat when you see a lot of veterans, like myself or Jerry, involved in it, too. It really is a worthwhile endeavor."
If you would like to make a donation, checks or money orders can be mailed to: Trees From Home, 2130 Brantwood Avenue, Glendale WI 53209. You can also send a monetary donation via PayPal.