Volunteers lovingly tucked ornaments, notes and cards around 100 fragrant Fraser firs and white pine trees last week, hoping to put a smile on a soldier's face by sending holiday cheer from home through Operation Evergreen.

Volunteers lovingly tucked ornaments, notes and cards around 100 fragrant Fraser firs and white pine trees last week, hoping to put a smile on a soldier's face by sending holiday cheer from home through Operation Evergreen.

Amy Galehouse, from Galehouse Tree Farm near Akron, said 35 to 40 tree-growers belonging to the Ohio Christmas Tree Association donated the trees, which were shipped out Nov. 13 to Kuwait.

"The trees had to be baled and put individually into 12-by-12-by-84-inch-long boxes for shipment; then ornaments, banners, garlands and other decorations were tucked in around them," she said.

Now in its 20th year, Operation Evergreen is fun for everyone involved, Galehouse said.

"We time the shipment for right after Veterans Day, so schools are all celebrating veterans," she said. "We've had kindergarten classes make paper chains as garlands and teens burn CDs of themselves singing Christmas carols.

"Some of the biggest hits with the troops are the handmade ornaments made by the children," she said. "Soldiers who received the trees said the ornaments look just like their own children made them."

Galehouse said the growers transport the trees to central locations around Ohio for mass transport or drive them out to Reynoldsburg themselves.

At any rate, they all ended up at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, 8995 E. Main St., on Nov. 13.

Brett Gates, from the ODA communication department, said the trees were inspected for insects and diseases that day -- an essential step before they can be sent overseas.

"We make sure they are free from several pests, including gypsy-moth egg masses and different root-worm pests," he said. "We had three or four inspectors looking them over to make sure they were good to go."

The trees were then baled by volunteers and put into the long boxes with the decorations.

Galehouse said growers are asked to donate trees that are 5.5 to 6.5 feet tall and, usually, white pines or Fraser firs, which are narrower, softer and easier to bale and fit into the boxes.

Shipping is not inexpensive: It cost $100 per tree this year. In other years, shipping has cost up to $150 a tree.

"We try to collect between $10,000 and $15,000 for shipping, with several groups, schools and organizations raising funds or donating online on our website," she said.

Anyone interested in helping with next year's shipment could donate funds for shipping through PayPal on the website.

"The trees and everything else are donated, but we never know how much shipping will cost us," Galehouse said.

About 115 to 120 growers from across the state belong to OCTA.

"The reason we all do this is for the troops, for all the guys and gals serving overseas," Galehouse said. "We just want them all to have a merry Christmas.

"There are always at least 1,200 units stationed overseas and until they all come home, our group is happy to help them out," she said.