Tory and Jesse Crowder founded Operation Christmas Tree in 2020. After purchasing their own tree, the day after Thanksgiving, they talked about how expensive it was and wondered how families that had been suffering through the year’s hardships could ever afford to purchase one. Knowing how much joy they experienced with their daughter Gracie putting the tree up and decorating it, and what having a tree means to their family, they decided that instead of giving gifts to each other that year, they would gift ten families a Christmas tree.
That evening, Tory posted the offer of free trees on their community Facebook page, expecting to hear from a few folks. But when Tory checked her post the following morning, 30 families had already responded to their offer! So, off they went to purchase 30 Christmas trees.
But as the day progressed and the requests kept coming in, Tory and Jesse quickly recognized that there was a profound need in their community, and realized that they needed help. And help is exactly what they got. In true “snowballing” fashion, Tory reached out to others who offered to pitch in, and those volunteers got even more folks involved, and in a matter of days many people stepped forward with their own donations and the collected donations they raised from others.
It also quickly became apparent that giving the trees didn’t complete the gift, because it’s not a Christmas tree without decorations, so Tory and Jesse started to purchase tree decorations and lights, so that every donated tree would come with everything needed to make it a fully decorated Christmas tree.
Tory and Jesse were profoundly moved by the stories they heard from the families. Stories of tremendous hardship, even in their affluent community. They learned that many children had never even had a Christmas tree, let alone Christmas presents. Many families were spending hours in food bank lines, only to be turned away when the food ran out.
So, Tory and Jesse made another plea for the community’s help- this time for donations of food. And that evolved into community members actually “adopting” particular families to provide Christmas gifts and meals.
All in all, Operation Christmas Tree delivered 214 Christmas trees to Sonoma County families last year, provided 67 families with a hot meal on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and provided Christmas gifts for 70 families.
In recognition of their incredible community service, Tory and Jesse were awarded the Press Democrat’s North Bay Spirit Award. And, as Tory commented: “this award belongs to our community, without them, none of this would have been possible.”
2021 is going to be even bigger and better, with a commitment to provide 800 Sonoma County families with a fully decorated Christmas tree that they can choose themselves at the newly launched Operation Christmas Tree Farm! Starting on November 27th, 2021, families can once again experience the magic of Christmas. We invite you to join us as one of our families, a volunteer or a donor.