Rockin’ Around Your LIFTmas Tree: Boston Partnership Brings Holiday Trees to Families

By LIFT on December 18, 2014

Categories: News, Our Work, Real Stories

Christmas can be an expensive holiday. As one anonymous person puts it, “Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.” For many of our LIFT members, this sentiment is all too true when the holiday season rolls around. With rent checks due, heating bills high, tables in need of food, and the next paycheck never coming quickly enough, money for a Christmas tree is just another strain on most of our members’ budgets at LIFT.

Sure, Christmas is a feeling of joy, is a religious rejoicing for many, is a time to be surrounded by loved ones, but without a Christmas tree, an endless variety of cookies, and a movie selection including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol,” it’s hard not to feel left out of the festivities. This year, however, Alex Gramling, Founding and Managing Santa of the nonprofit organization Christmas Tree Santas, came to our annual LIFT-Boston Holiday Party to spread some true holiday cheer. Christmas Tree Santas is giving away 750 trees this Christmas season, and fifty of those were accepted by LIFT-Boston members and their families to brighten their homes this holiday season.

Alex recognizes the extra expenses of the holidays, and in regards to trees says he is “grateful that we can absorb this cost for needy families and let them spend their money elsewhere.” While traditional charities focus on giving out items generally considered to be inelastic, Alex feels giving out the “extras” like Christmas trees is just as important. “I honestly hadn’t realized until I started this what a powerful symbol a Christmas tree is in our culture. Families tell me it’s a vital part of their holiday celebration and to receive one affords them a sense of joy, normalcy, dignity and hope.”

And no matter what holiday we do or don’t celebrate, we can all relate to that Grinch-like heart expansion that happens when in the presence of warm, glowing holiday lights and the smell of pine needles.

Those of us who work in the nonprofit field can also relate to that “Aha!” moment that inspires our work. For Alex, this moment came while giving away a Christmas tree. “Five years ago, I was giving away an artificial tree simply to get it out of my basement. The single mom who came to claim it brought her children and their joyful and grateful response to the tree overwhelmed me. I realized they were struggling economically and that the tree meant everything to them.”

Christmas Tree Santas is a part-time, all-volunteer organization, so Alex utilizes other organizations to help him identify families who could use a tree. As opposed to screening families themselves, Christmas Tree Santas connects to organizations who “are on the front lines and have direct and daily access to the families and an understanding of their needs.” And how did Alex get connected to LIFT?
“Serendipity,” he says. “I met a LIFT alum at a business conference. We were making small talk about social entrepreneurship and I mentioned my organization and my desire to find a Boston partner for a Christmas tree giveaway. LIFT sounded like a fit and the rest is history!”

Two of LIFT’s core values are collaboration and relationships, and that’s exactly how the single mom inspired Alex, how the LIFT alum connected Alex, and how our members were connected to Alex.

We are hearing from members coming in this week just how much the Christmas trees have lit up their homes. Alex told me his favorite memory from giving away the trees at our Holiday Party was a mother and daughter “literally jumping up and down with excitement as they picked out their tree.”

So this year we hope that our LIFT members can rock around their Christmas trees and share memories with their children under the shadows and smell of the pine branches, while knowing that we here at LIFT are grateful for all of our members and the resilience, determination and laughter they bring to our office every day. Happy holidays!

Take a look at the photos from the event here.