Trees for troops is a community gift
CAMINO — For the past 32 years Indian Rock Tree Farm has been sending Christmas trees to El Dorado County service men and women deployed overseas. They’ve been supplying the trees for the program for even longer — since Carl Borelli, the late El Dorado County supervisor and Placerville mayor, started the program during the Vietnam War.
Larry and Geri Hyder, owners of Indian Rock, have a huge binder of grateful letters sent from exotic places all over the world. A recent letter sent from a Marine regiment in the Garmsir District, Helmand Province of Afghanistan is signed by many members of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Task Force Leatherneck.
Capt.Michael Miklos wrote, “It is the support that we receive from our friends, families and other supporters like you back home who help us go on each day and remember why we fight.”
The Hyders start cutting the little silver tip fir trees that will be sent to troops at the end of October and into the first part of November. They use silver tip pine trees because the trees hold their color and last so well. “We put a wet sponge around the bottom of the tree with a baggie over it,” said Geri Hyder.
“This year the trees are looking good and we got such good growth,” said Hyder as she walked through the maze of green needled, sweet-scented trees.
The trees are a part of a community message of support and thanks to El Dorado County military personnel. Into each box go letters and cards from community organizations, individuals and school children, fudge from Abel’s Acres, decorations made by the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, a copy of the Mountain Democrat and Western Outdoor News, cool ties and helmet liners from the Placerville Sewing Guild and a lot of little conveniences like lip balm, Band-aids and Handi-Wipes.
Every year Geri Hyder looks for more small conveniences to send to troops out in the field. “Last year we sent packages of instant Starbucks coffee and we are looking for all kinds of instant beverages to send because that way, when you’re far away from a base, you can still have a cup of something warm.”
Hyder always makes sure there are candy canes in the boxes,”some to eat and some to put on the tree.”
Even people out of the community contribute to the boxes. Every year the manager of the K Street Mall in Sacramento donates a small stuffed animal for every box to be given to children in the area or to be kept as a reminder of home. This year stuffed polar bears will end up in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever El Dorado County troops are deployed. The boxes themselves are donated, in part, by a Sacramento shipping business.
The Retired Teachers Association will be sending bags of caramels in this year’s boxes and bags of dried pears from Jack and Janet Runner and hand cream from Mary Kay will be included. The UPS Store on Broadway also donates boxes and the Placerville Rotary Club contributes toward the $20 per box cost of shipping.
“Every year, what goes in the box is a little different,” said Hyder. “Everybody contributes.”
One soldier who received a tree last December wrote,”It smelled amazing and not like sand — like everything else.”
U.S. Army Reserve, Sgt. First Class Jeff Lee wrote from Kabul, Afghanistan, when he received a tree last year: “We’re not supposed to have real trees, but I’m keeping it … The first thing I did was stick my nose in it and take a big whiff.” Lee also wrote that, since this year he will be home at Christmas, he plans to come to Indian Rock with his family to pick a tree for their home.
Geri Hyder needs the names and addresses of El Dorado County servicemen and women by Oct. 31 in order to gather supplies. Trees will be mailed before Thanksgiving and military personnel should receive them in two to three weeks.
The best way to notify Hyder of the names and addresses of military personnel from El Dorado County serving overseas is through e-mail at [email protected] You can also call Indian Rock Tree Farm at 530-622-4087. Donations of money to help defray the cost of shipping the trees is welcome and so are donations of instant beverages.