Joe Cerniglia smiled as he carried two Christmas trees, one under each arm, to the back of a FedEx truck Tuesday morning.
There were plenty of helping hands at the annual Trees for Troops event at Ellms Christmas Trees in Charlton. Eager helpers like Cerniglia made the job go quickly, getting about 130 trees from 12 local farms loaded in a matter of minutes.
Cerniglia, a chief master sergeant with the 109th Airlift Wing in Glenville, was one of about 40 volunteers helping to load balsam and Fraser firs that are being shipped to the National Guard Armory in Statesboro, Georgia, where they will be distributed to military families in time for the holidays.
“Anytime we can come collectively together to put a little cheer in our troops’ lives, in their families’ lives … I think it’s a great thing,” said Cerniglia, of Rotterdam. “Right now, there’s a lot of families out there whose mothers, fathers, sons, daughters — they’re away. They’re protecting our right to do this.”
Garth Ellms, co-owner of the farm on Charlton Road, said his family’s business started serving as the pickup location for the Capital Region Trees for Troops in 2005, and the local contribution of Christmas trees has grown every year. It’s part of a national effort to distribute Christmas trees to the families of troops and soldiers serving overseas.
The program now delivers about 20,000 trees per year.
“We’re trying to do our part; it’s nothing compared to what these guys are doing,” Ellms said, adding that some of the volunteers got involved after receiving a tree while serving overseas and returning home. “And when they talk about seeing a green tree in the middle of the desert … that’s home for them, and that’s that little piece around the holidays that helps them get through it.”
Richard Goldenberg, a colonel with the New York National Army Guard in Latham, has been volunteering since 2006 — he was deployed in Iraq in 2005, when the local Trees for Troops effort began.
He said the trees serve as a reminder for the troops that people back home haven’t forgotten them, and “you can’t get past that aroma of a Christmas tree.
“Especially for folks from Upstate New York who might be in someplace that’s a desert or a forbidding type of environment. The smell of a Christmas tree is a definite reminder of Upstate New York.”
Reach Gazette reporter Ned Campbell at 395-3142, [email protected] or @nedcampbell on Twitter.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County