Colorado Springs’ Christmas Tree Project donates to those in need | VailDaily.com

Colorado Springs’ Christmas Tree Project donates to those in need

Lindsay Bribiescas
Special to the Daily

Christmas miracles can be found regularly starting Dec. 9, when the Christmas Tree Project really kicks into gear.

Started by David Fein and his wife, Michelle, the project distributes free Christmas trees and decorations to families in need. But what truly sets the project apart is that it depends almost entirely on donations — both of time and decorations.

Fein recruits "elves" to help him collect supplies over the course of the year, and then he really puts them to work during winter to distribute and deliver the decorations they have.

"People donating things, there is no concept of any categories, it's just 'you're a person who needs help and I will help you,'" Fein said. "It's just a beautiful thing. I think it's the truth of who people are given the chance: They're giving, they're compassionate and they're loving, which is really cool."

HOW IT WORKS

The supplies are held in Fein's office in Colorado Springs, where he runs a software company. Around the beginning of December, just when requests for trees have begun to really pick up, Fein begins organizing "Santa's Workshop" for people to come collect their trees and decorations.

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It takes about 30 elves eight hours to set up the distribution areas, and then about 20 elves to run the pick-up sessions.

During the pick-up sessions, there are about 100 people in line at a time, which is not even half of the requests received. The project tries not to turn anyone away. Last year, the website received upward of 600 requests, a number expected to climb every year. By mid-November this year, Fein had received more than 170 requests.

GOING GLOBAL

The project is not confined to Colorado, or even to the United States. It reaches across the nation and has even sent trees to Nairobi, Kenya's capital city.

Fein's friend runs an annual Christmas program that gives out school uniforms and food to disadvantaged kids in rural areas just outside of Nairobi and asked for help getting a tree to complete the Christmas experience for the children.

When Fein was contacted about this, he sent funds to make sure that the group received a tree. This same determination extends to requests within the United States. When the project receives a message from someone outside the project's reach, Fein finds ways to help them.

The fastest way, he's found, is to call a tree grower in the area and explain the situation and the project. Often it takes less than two minutes to have them fully committed to helping this stranger in need.

THE FEINS

This project has changed how Fein sees Christmas — although he is Jewish, Christmas has long been his favorite holiday.

"It didn't have a deep significance like it does now, like the Christmas spirit was kind of a general thing and it was nice, but now it's a whole different experience," Fein said. "This whole project brings out the real genuine love and compassion in people, which is really what Christmas should be all about."

The public relations "elf" of the project, Dave Dix, has known Fein for about 10 years and has been involved in the project himself for three or four years. Dix said that Fein is a "very positive" person — one who looked at an overwhelming need for Christmas trees and decided to fix the problem as best he could.

GET INVOLVED

For those wishing to help the project, there are a number of ways to participate.

Trees and decorations such as cards or ornaments, handmade or store-bought, are welcome donations, as are funds to buy more supplies. Those wishing to volunteer their time for driving or handing out supplies can sign up on the project's website.

Those in need of a tree can fill out a form on the website.

For more information, visit http://www.thechristmastreeproject.org.

By the numbers

The Christmas Tree Project has existed for seven years.

Over 1,300 trees have been given away.

The first year, 300 trees were given away over 12 days.

The project started with 20 responses to an ad for one free tree.