Giving Away Christmas Trees to the Needy

Decorating trees for Christmas dates all the way back to the 15th century. It's a central part of the holiday celebration. In northern California, the Christmas tree is at the center of a new holiday tradition. CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports on "The American Spirit Of Giving."



REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - When George Garrick opens his Christmas tree lot in Redwood City, California, the line already stretches down the street. Garrick isn't selling trees - he's giving them away to families in need.

Raul Valesquez, a father of four, said, "Oh my God. This is very important for my children."

"For a lot of these families to go and pay $60, $70 or $80 for a tree at a commercial lot - they just can't do it," Garrick said.

Rosa Contreras, who lined up more than an hour to get her tree said, "It's worth it, it's really worth it.

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For the Garrick family, the giveaway has become a Christmas tradition.

"It's definitely our high of the season," George's wife Lainie said. Their kids, William, Jonathan, and Victoria all pitch in.

"The best is the smell of Christmas trees," Victoria sait. "It's like the smell of Christmas."

What the Garrick's call "Trees of Joy" started three years ago after they heard of one family in town who couldn't afford a tree. Now they give away 500 trees.

"We do the trees, we do the ornaments, we do the stands, we do the hooks," Lainie said. "We have to make sure they go home with it all decorated."

To make sure the trees go to deserving homes, the Garrick's get help from Teri Chin, who runs the city's support programs for low-income families.

"I think it's a wonderful gift," Chin said. "It's a wonderful gift."

George, an Internet CEO says he spends $30,000 on the giveaway and gets it all back in smiles.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.

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