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Wednesday
Nov282012

Growers Seek Help Getting Christmas Trees to Sandy Victims

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Christmas tree growers Rob Brown and Don Hilliker had an idea: They would gather Christmas trees from their fellow New York farmers and send them to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York City’s devastated Staten Island.

Friends and colleagues all agreed it was a great idea and the plan was a go, until Brown reached out to agencies on Staten Island to distribute the trees.  No one seemed to be able to help.

“Right after the hurricane, I called down to the Staten Island Fire Department,” Brown told ABC News.  “I tried two or three times.  But for a while they had no power.  Later, I tried again and was referred to the disaster relief down there.  I was tossed around between several people but was never told anything except that it was a good idea.”

Brown, who has farms in Norfolk, N.Y., understood that Christmas trees were the last thing on relief workers’ minds.

“I didn’t know anyone down there.  I thought I was talking to the right people, but they were just overwhelmed,” said Brown, who’s now in the middle of the busy holiday season.

Brown and Hilliker are longtime members of the Christmas Tree Farmers’ Association of New York.  They have a network of growers to supply the trees for free, and many of them have already agreed to help.  They already pitch in for the annual Trees for Troops program which ships Christmas trees around the globe to members of America’s armed forces.

One association member, Kay Moore, of Groton, N.Y., said she thought Brown and Hilliker had a great idea.

“When we learned what happened down in New York City, we knew we’d help in any way,” Moore told ABC News.  “All growers feel for those who might not be able to have a proper Christmas this year.  If we can help make sure a family has a happier Christmas, we’re going to do it.”

Despite the roadblocks, Brown said he believes his evergreens could make a difference.  If word gets out, he says, the Christmas trees will reach Staten Island.

“I heard over 2,000 had lost their homes and everything else they had and, come Christmas, it’d be nice for these people to have a fresh, green Christmas tree during the holidays.  We just need someone on the ground who’s willing to distribute them,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio