BETHLEHEM — Community members and fifth graders at Bethlehem Elementary School hit the ground running on Monday morning, tagging and loading 500 Christmas trees at The Rocks Estate for the 15th annual loading of the Trees For Troops.
The class also raised a good chunk of money for the program, the bulk of it from a read-a-thon on Wednesday.
“It was a great turnout,” said BES fifth-grade teacher Christine Young-Rineer. “Between the read-a-thon and the businesses, we raised $750.”
The read-a-thon itself generated $600, and the businesses and individuals — Apple Hill Campground, Beech Hill Automotive, The Coffee Pot Restaurant, and Tina and Paul Lister — donated $150.
The money will go to the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the sponsor of Trees For Troops.
This year, 19 kids, donning purple FedEx Christmas Santa Claus hats, participated in what has become an annual tradition for BES’s fifth-grade class, whose students tag the trees with a Christmas greeting and write the name of the donor.
Then forming a human assembly line, they loaded trees onto two FedEx tractor trailers, where they will be shipped to military bases for members of all branches of the U.S. military and their families, who receive them at no charge.
FedEx, which picks up the trees and transports them for free, is the corporate sponsor of the Trees For Troops program, which also runs on the donations from businesses.
Helping out were BES teachers, school district representatives that included White Mountains SAU 35 Superintendent Pierre Couture, and members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
This year, 200 trees were donated by the Autosaver Group and 100 trees by the Veterans for Foreign Wars, who were the top two donors, said Nigel Manley, general manager of The Rocks Estate and a past national chairman of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation.
The Rocks Estate is the collection point for the trees, which come from about 25 Christmas tree farms in New Hampshire and Vermont.
“It’s fun for us and we really love it,” said Mike Garvin, owner of Mountain Star Farms, a Christmas tree farm in Swiftwater that has participated each year and regularly donates trees.
For 2019, The Rocks Estate, owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, was also selected as the farm that will be donating two Christmas trees for state holiday celebrations.
The trees will go to the New Hampshire statehouse and the Bridges House.