Project Evergreen

Northridge students, local farm donate trees to local service member families

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LINDEN — When National Guardsman Samuel Brown returns from Kuwait after the holidays, gifts will be waiting under the Christmas tree.

“We’re not doing Christmas until he gets home,” said Samuel’s wife, Brittany.

The tree was donated by Northridge Middle School students, who began raising money on Veterans Day to help families of local military personnel spruce up their homes for the holiday season. Four families received trees through the first-time effort, called Project Evergreen.

“Our kids really don’t necessarily take anything from hearing people speak,” Jodi Webster, a social studies teacher, said about recognizing service members. “They needed some action.”

To raise the money, Webster’s sixth graders donned Santa hats and fanned out across the school asking for donations. The trees were grown at Oak Hill Tree Farm.

Kiefer Ervin and his classmates signed large cards hung on the trees for each family.

“When you have family out there [deployed with the military], I think it’s going to help them through that,” Ervin said of the trees.

The leftover money was donated to the local Blue Star Mothers chapter, which sends care packages to local troops serving overseas.

“I am thrilled to see that this younger generation is learning volunteerism, and they’re learning to support the troops,” Blue Star Mothers president Gayle Sosbe said.

The families picked out their trees Friday afternoon during a program at the school, where they posed for pictures with Santa.

Larry Randle joined the Marines out of high school in 1980, spending the next 12 years as an artilleryman and training recruits in South Carolina.

Randle’s 21-year-old son Chase, a North Montgomery High School grad, is carrying on the family tradition as he waits to be deployed from California’s Camp Pendleton.

“After the holidays, he’ll be going back to Afghanistan, and that’s all I really know,” Randle said.

“When I see the tree,” he added, “I think of my son.”

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