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Operation Christmas Tree giving away trees in Sonoma for those in need

For cash-strapped families, the holiday luxury of buying and decorating a tree isn’t always a reality.

The average Christmas tree in California in 2021 cost $80, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Add in lights and ornaments, and most families will spend well over $100 this season.

Windsor’s Tory and Jesse Crowder, who founded Operation Christmas Tree, are distributing free trees and decorations to brighten the holiday season for hundreds of local families in need.

The nonprofit recently found a new home at Sonoma’s Haystack Farm. A corner of the property has been transformed into an old-fashioned Christmas tree lot, complete with weekend visits from Santa Claus. There’s hundreds of trees to pick from, and a tent with hot cocoa, coffee, cookies and sweets. After picking out their tree, families can head to the decoration tent to get lights, ornaments and a tree stand.

“There are some kids who have never had a Christmas tree, and they get so excited,” Tory Crowder said. “They’re getting to enjoy the trees as we did as kids, it’s so fun to watch.”

Operation Christmas Tree has partnered with La Luz Center, Burbank Housing and Catholic Charities to get the word out, and has donated about 1,000 Christmas trees. Although the nonprofit is no longer accepting applications for trees, residents can email info@operationchristmastree.org to be added to its waiting list.

Now that Operation Christmas Tree has reached its goal of 1,000 trees, the Crowders are pivoting to raise money for meals that will distributed to families on Christmas Eve. Donations are being accepted via Venmo at operationchristmastree or at operationchristmastree.org.

The Crowders also are making plans for a free pumpkin patch next Halloween and, maybe one day, a free summer camp for kids who can’t afford it otherwise.

“We’re just getting started,” Tory Crowder said.

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