Many U.S. soldiers in Kuwait will celebrate Christmas this year with more than 100 trees donated by the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.
Valerie Graham, director of the association, said the trees are donated by Ohio Christmas tree growers as part of Operation Evergreen. The association collects donations to pay for shipping, which is $160 per tree.
This year, trees were donated from all over the state, including tree farms in Alexandria, Blacklick, Columbus, Delaware, Granville, Hilliard, Newark, Somerset, Sunbury and Thornville.
Shipping donations came from individuals and companies, with larger donations made by the Hudler Tree Farm in North Carolina, Bolt Construction in Youngstown and Nicolaus Stifel and Co. in Westlake, Graham said.
The association has sent more than 5,000 trees to military personnel overseas since the program stated in 1995, Graham said.
She said this year's trees will go to soldiers serving at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
"We have to work with the military folks who tell us where the trees are going to be shipped to," Graham said.
The trees are inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to ensure no diseases or pests are sent with them, said Brett Gates, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Volunteers gathered Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg to bundle and box more than 100 inspected trees for Operation Evergreen.
Gates said inspections typically cost between $25 and $100, but fees are waived for this program.
Graham said the trees are sent with ornaments created by children in Girl Scout troops and Family Career and Community Leader chapters in schools throughout the state.
This year, Girl Scout troops from Columbus and Family Career and Community Leader chapters at Granville Intermediate and Northridge Intermediate schools made ornaments to send.
Graham said she encourages the children to send email addresses because soldiers often return emails with photos of the trees decorated and set up on a military base.
Graham said she was impressed this year with a paper garland ornament. Students wrote individual messages on each ring before taping the rings together to make a garland.
Donations are collected by the first week of November and shipped so soldiers receive the trees between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For more information on Operation Evergreen or how to donate for shipping, visit OhioChristmasTree.com.