Entries in christmas tree (2)


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


Ala. Lawyer Against Courthouse Christmas Tree

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DOTHAN, Ala.) -- “I’m not trying to be Scrooge here,” said an Alabama defense attorney who wants his cases postponed until a courthouse Christmas tree decorated with photos of violent-crime victims is removed.

“I have four Christmas trees in my own house,” Billy Joe Sheffield II, of Dothan, Ala., was quick to point out.

He believes the tree—decorated with photos of victims—jeopardizes his clients’ right to a fair trial.

The tree was put up by the local chapter of Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL), a statewide organization that supports crime victims and seeks to balance victims’ rights against those of defendants, according to its website.

“If I was on a jury, and on my way into the courtroom I saw a Christmas tree and a display with the words ‘against leniency’ alongside pictures of murder victims, I might be influenced,” Sheffield said. (The “a” in VOCAL stands for “and,” not “against,”  a mistake that an Internet search showed to be common enough,  even appearing in the Dothan Eagle’s Dec. 1 article on Sheffield.)

“No one would want a sign outside a courtroom saying, ‘DNA has exonerated these 2,000-plus people,’ with their photos,” or a Mothers Against Drunk Driving poster outside a DUI trial, he said.

Sheffield filed motions that “10 to 15” trials scheduled for next week be deferred until after the holidays, when the display would be gone. Judges have already denied several of the motions, which he has renewed, he said. Other motions have yet to be decided, he said, adding that “two [trials] are probably going forward.”

“I had to put something on the record” that might bolster an appeal on jury-bias grounds if one of his clients is convicted, he said.

Sheffield has not asked that the tree be removed, saying, “I’m a longtime supporter of VOCAL and have donated money to them.”

“I just don’t think a pro-D.A. organization—one that’s funded by the D.A.—should turn a Christmas tree into a statement against leniency,” he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio