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Bethlehem students prepare Trees for Troops

BETHLEHEM -- Bethlehem Elementary School has been involved in the Trees for Troops program since 2005.

"The first fifth-grade class involved are today seniors in high school," teacher Sue Greenlaw said Tuesday. "It started as a community service project. They just asked us to help load Christmas trees into FedEx trucks."

Now students are not only loading the trees, but making phone calls soliciting donations of trees or money for trees. Students also collect other items to send to troops through the local VFW.

On Tuesday, the youngsters arrived at the Rocks Estate to find a pile of about 450 trees. This year the trees are going to Fort Campbell in Kentucky and Fort Hood in Texas. FedEx delivers trees to more than 60 military bases, most in the U.S., but some overseas as well, all for free.

The Rocks Estate is the shipping point for all of the Christmas trees from New Hampshire and Vermont. Rocks Estate manager Nigel Manley said the first year of the Trees for Troops program, about 4,000 trees were delivered. This year it will be 18,000.

Five of the students Tuesday morning were sixth-graders who had helped load trees last year.

"It's a great thing to do for the community and to give back," Iris Miller-White said.

Lyndsi Stone, also a sixth-grader, said she really enjoyed making phone calls asking for donations.

"It felt so good when I got one," she said.

"So we can give them to people who don't have trees," Jordan Walker, a fifth-grader said when asked why students were doing the project. Some students preferred the assembly line, passing trees person to person, but Jordan said he liked putting the tags on best.

"It's kind of quiet and peaceful," he said.

Students were all given Santa hats. It wasn't long before they were singing Christmas carols, including "Old Little Town of Bethlehem," as they passed the trees along to each other

"We have a close connection with the Bethlehem Elementary School, Manley said. "In addition to students helping with the Trees for Troops program, they also participate in the Forevergreen program."

In the Forevergreen Program, children plant Christmas trees when they are in kindergarten and harvest them in the sixth grade.

Manley is the representative for New Hampshire and Vermont for the Trees for Troops program. He is also the national chairman of the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which founded the Trees for Troops program.

He is employed by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which owns the Rocks Estate. The Rocks Estate was the summer home of businessman John Jacob Glessner, co-founder of International Harvester.


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