David and Michelle Fein were tired of assembling their old artificial Christmas tree, so they went out and bought a new one. On the way home, Michelle asked, “So what do we do with the old one? It’s still good. Maybe somebody could use it?”
They decided to offer it for free on Craigslist and quickly got 20 responses. They ended up giving it to a family whose new baby was celebrating its first Christmas. But Michelle had to ask, “We have all these other people. What are we going to do?”
That night at dinner, they told some friends about the problem, and they all donated toward buying more trees. Then, the Gazette ran a story, and the Feins ended up being able to supply 200 trees to local families that first year.
It was the start of something big: The Christmas Tree Project, which has been giving away trees now for 12 years, complete with decorations, lights, tinsel, candy canes, and even home decorations. “The whole thing grew organically,” Michelle says. “We didn’t plan any of this.
Last year, they received more than 30,000 requests for trees, and they fill as many as they can. The trees they supply are mostly artificial, but sometimes they get live tree donations. Last year, a man in Longmont gave them 300 live trees to give away in the Denver area. A Chicago tree seller gave them 300, too, with the caveat that he had to get rid of them in 48 hours. “It’s not that easy to give away 300 trees in two days,” David says. They have given away trees in all 50 states, plus Moscow, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, and other countries.
Luckily, they have lots of support from friendly “elves” as they call them. “People have just come out of the woodwork to help us,” David says. And some have been helping since the beginning, Michelle adds.
Locally, the tree giveaway happens the second weekend in December. Anyone who has requested a tree can come to the 2,000-square-foot warehouse during the giveaway and pick up a tree and decorations. If someone can’t pick up their tree, the Feins find a volunteer to deliver it. Sometimes even that isn’t feasible, and they send the recipient a Walmart gift card to buy a tree and trimmings.
In 2021, they gave away about 250 trees locally. But, beyond that, they have given away thousands of trees—they estimate approximately 4,000 worldwide. They believe they’re the largest nonmilitary tree giveaway organization in the world.
Donations are essential to helping them continue their charity. During an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, she gave them $10,000, enabling them to do a lot more that year.
They collect trees, decorations, and cash donations all year long, and their elves come from schools, churches, and businesses, such as David’s own software company, ValuSource, where all his employees chip in and help out every year. It’s rewarding work, they say: “We get letters…and people are so moved to know that there are other people in the world who care about them and are so generous.”
And they see it in person at the giveaways. “One woman in Monument donated a tree, and as she was driving down here, she started thinking about all the memories associated with that tree and had tears in her eyes by the time she got here,” David says. “In the parking lot, she met a woman who was here to get a tree and who had been living in her car. She gave that woman her tree, and they were both crying.”
Every year, “it’s an incredible experience, how it unfolds, but always bigger than you can imagine,” Michelle says. “There’s so much love.” Sometimes it seems like there are more local requests than they can accommodate, David adds, “but we’ve never turned a person away in the past 11 years. We always find them a tree. Every year, just as we’re about to run out, we get calls saying, ‘I have 100 trees. Do you want them?’ They’re like little Christmas miracles.”
How To Help
Anyone interested can go online to thechristmastreeproject.org to volunteer, give cash donations, or donate a tree or decorations. You can also get your church, school, company, or other organization involved. Call 719.799.6074 to make a donation or for general information.
For tree requests ONLY: 719.799.6070.