By Robert Blechl, Caledonian Record
BETHLEHEM — Braving a blustery wind and beating an incoming rain, community members, representatives of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and local students turned out in strong numbers for the 17th annual tagging and loading of the Trees For Troops on Wednesday morning.
The trees collected at the local level will join thousands more nationwide that will go to military service members and their families in time for the holidays.
It marked the first year that the loading wasn’t done at The Rocks Estate, just up the road and where major renovations are advancing to convert the Carriage Barn into the northern headquarters for SPNHF.
Instead, the 2022 collection point for trees from local tree farms in New Hampshire and Vermont was the 23-acre South Farm, a Christmas tree farm just above Profile School.
The farm is owned by Nigel Manley, senior outreach manager at The Rocks, who this year retired after over three decades as The Rocks’ Christmas tree farmer.
Since 2007, the fifth-grade class at Bethlehem Elementary School has participated locally in the national Trees For Troops program and has taken the lead in tagging the several hundred trees brought to Bethlehem.
On Wednesday, 28 students participated.
“This is great,” said BES Principal Sue Greenlaw. “It’s one of our biggest classes.”
In addition to tagging the trees and then forming a human assembly line to load them into FedEx trailers, BES students in past years have done their own fund-raising by calling local businesses to raise money for the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation, the nonprofit charitable arm of the National Christmas Tree Association that puts on Trees For Troops.
“This year, we only did the tags and loading activity,” said Greenlaw. “The pandemic kind of stopped some of the other pieces that we used to do.”