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‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to have Christmas?’: Volunteers deliver trees, ornaments to families in need

<i>KPTV</i><br/>Chad Barker
Chad Barker

By Chandler Watkins

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — What started in 2020 as an idea to give away a few Christmas trees has turned into what many consider a holiday tradition as they help deliver hundreds of trees locally and across the country.

Chad Barker, the founder of The Giving Trees, said the nonprofit organization delivers trees, stands, lights and ornaments to those who need “a little extra boost” in the season.

“They may not be able to get a tree themselves or they just need a little extra joy,” Barker said. “We started giving trees in 2020. It had been a rough year. We started out with the goal of giving away five or 10 trees. We ended up giving away 117 trees that first year. Last year, we decided to do it again and we ended up giving away 721 trees across 12 states, and this year we will for sure be giving away more than 1,500 trees but the goal is 2,000.”

He said they discovered both a community need as well as how much the community desired to help.

“I’m amazed,” Barker said. “I love the way this brings so many people together from the recipients to the volunteers, who we call ‘reindeer’, to the donors. We have donors that are all over the world. I love it. I get to see the impact that it has on those receiving the trees. I got an email this morning from one of our reindeer in another state that said they loved it and it made their holidays. That to me, it warms my heart. A core value of mine, and one we hold as a family, is inclusion and connection. When everyone is having a good time, that’s fun for me. Most of our donors have increased their donations over the course of the three years, which is great that they are increasing it and I love that they are happy to be involved. Nothing makes me happier than people getting involved and a little bit of magic that we are all creating together.”

Despite a little rain, the volunteers – or ‘reindeer’ – came to pick up their Christmas trees and bag of goodies to deliver.

Nick Bogen said he learned about The Giving Tree through a friend and this is his third year doing it.

“The really neat thing is the reaction of some of the kids,” Bogen said. “One quote I remember is ‘oh my gosh, we’re going to have Christmas?’ Hits you pretty good in the heart. It’s definitely a fulfilling use of my time and it gives you a pretty solid perspective of things. The things that may be bothering you that day all of a sudden seem unimportant. I don’t see a reason I wouldn’t continue doing this in the future.”

He and a friend picked up nine Christmas trees and bags to be delivered Saturday.

“This is a neat organization,” Bogen said. “It’s ramped up in scale and scope and the people that are organizing it are really putting in a lot of effort. It’s impressive. It shows it’s well coordinated and it makes it easy for volunteers to get involved. I encourage anybody that’s even remotely interested to try it. I think a couple of hours for a few trees is really rewarding and well worth it. So I encourage anybody remotely interested to check it out, give it a try, and you’ll find it’s a pretty rewarding use of your time.”

Couples Jeff and Debbie Muchow and Linda and Brent Cech showed up to deliver their Christmas trees and bags of goodies together.

“Last year Linda found out about this opportunity to give back to the community and invited us to do it with them,” Debbie Muchow said. “Last year, together, we delivered trees, and we said next year we have to deliver trees again. This time we joined forces so we can actually do 24 trees to families in the community and we look forward to it every year.”

Now in its third year, Barker said it’s great seeing the positive impact of neighbors coming out to help neighbors over the holiday season.

“When we started this we had a bit of a hunch people would enjoy it if somebody showed up and delivered a tree. We had a modest goal and as we went about it, we realized the impact it had on people. We started going further. That first year, delivering over 100 trees was a surprise for us. Seeing the impact and hearing stories that people shared with us of what they are going through. This is just an opportunity for the community to reach out and connect a little bit. We hope their takeaway is that somebody else cares. That means the world to this team. This is an all-volunteer organization. We all have day jobs. I’m really grateful to work at a place called Health Fitness and they are really supportive of me doing this.”

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