Last year, tree farms in Carbon County sent 254 Christmas trees to American troops serving overseas or their families in the U.S.

Drew Yenser, owner of Yenser's Tree Farm in Mahoning Township, is hoping to increase that tally to 300 trees this year.

Yenser is the local coordinator of the national Trees for Troops program, an annual event which delivers Christmas trees to American troops and their families. The trees are delivered to the troops free of charge by FedEx.

It's Trees for Troops weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Yenser's, with the official kickoff occurring at 11 a.m. Friday.

State Rep. Keith McCall, Speaker of the House of Representatives, will participate in the kickoff, as will a military color guard from the Lehighton United Veterans Organization.

Also speaking will be retired Air Force Major General M. Jay Barry.

Representatives from FedEx are scheduled to participate. A tractor-trailer which will transport the trees to a military base will be parked at Yenser's Tree Farm, located at 1910 Mahoning Drive East (Route 902).

Yenser said several other local tree farms are also participating in the Trees for Troops program. Those farms participating will have large banners displayed.

During the coming weekend, trees can be purchased at participating farms for delivery to the troops for $25. At Yenser's, anyone purchasing a tree for a soldier will receive a 10 percent discount on the purchase of another tree.

Yenser said 300 trees is the maximum that will fit inside the FedEx trailer. He said more than 100 trees have been donated already, including 70 from two school groups.

Nationally, Trees for Troops is expected to collect and deliver more than 15,000 real Christmas tress from across the nation. Besides soldiers serving overseas, the program also distributes trees to the families of military personnel.

It is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association, the Christmas Spirit Foundation, and FedEx Corporation.

In a release from the National Christmas Tree Growers Association, Mark Steelhammer of Rochester, Minn., president of the organization, said, "Our military and their families have been providing a real service to our country. And, as Christmas tree farmers, we want them to be able to experience a traditional Christmas with a real tree."

Yenser added that for every tree a consumer purchases, he will contribute $5 to the Christmas Spirit Foundation.

On Saturday, members of Lehighton Daisy Troop 33 of Lehighton will be at the tree farm and donate several trees which they purchased for the Trees for Troops program.