On a cold Colorado morning, moms, dads and kids lined up for something to warm their holiday: a free Christmas tree. For most, caught in tough economic circumstances, this would be the only way to have a tree.
The trees were all donated. Each family got one and then a volunteer helper, called an elf, took them upstairs into a Christmas wonderland of donated ornaments and decorations. The rooms had everything needed to turn a tree into a home's Christmas centerpiece.
It was all organized by David and Michelle Fein of The Christmas Tree Project. The project started with a one-line ad on Craigslist eight Christmases ago.
"We bought a new Christmas tree ... and literally on the way back from Home Depot we said, 'Well let's put an ad on Craigslist,'" said David Fein. "So we put a one line ad on Craigslist that simply said, 'Free Christmas tree for a family with children,' and we got 20 responses in an hour. And we were just blown away by the number of people and the kind of people. Wounded vets, single moms, people that were struggling."
One of the first to respond to the ad was Felice Liquori. She heads up Rocky Mountain Kids, a nonprofit that houses children and teens in the foster system.
"David has provided Rocky Mountain kids Christmas tree since 2010," Liquori said. "So in every one of our five homes I just need to call David, I did a couple of weeks ago. 'David we need a new tree, we opened a new home.' Then we have a new tree. So those are expensive I don't have to worry about it each year."
Alexis, 17, thinks the tree changes life in a foster system group home.
"They're trying to make you feel like family, like a normal Christmas. So we're going to have a tree, we're going to have stockings. We're just going to enjoy it like a normal family," she said.
The Feins estimate they have given away more than 2,000 trees over the years.
"It's like the true Christmas spirit shows up on both sides. And for a moment people realize you know the beauty of giving, the beauty in the humbleness of having to ask and all of that sort of coming together," said Fein.
One of the youngest helpers is David and Michelle's granddaughter, 10-year-old Rose. She said she enjoys directing the children to the toys because "their faces light up with joy."
Michael and Daniel, sister Heaven, mom Amanda and dad Richard took their time. There was, in fact, a lot to choose from.
"I saw an ad for this free Christmas tree organization and there and I just signed up for the kids," said Amanda. She said the free tree and decorations would help the family have a better Christmas.
"I want them to feel and experience of abundance and being taken care of and peace in their lives ... and an experience of being ... cared about and really seen as a person, a valuable person. Not just another person who wants something for nothing," said Michelle Fein.
For Amanda and Richard and the family, the tree had a home and a lot of decorations. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, it really was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.