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Mahoning tree farm kicks off Trees for Troops program

Drew Yenser was at the National Christmas Tree convention in Maine in 2005 when someone mentioned a program called Trees for Troops. It entails local communities sending Christmas trees to families on military bases.

Coming from a military family himself, Yenser immediately familiarized himself with the program. As an owner of Yenser’s Tree Farm in Mahoning Township, he realized he had the ability to make a contribution. “We decided right there to get involved,” he said.

Yenser’s Christmas Tree Farm was sold a few years ago to Ryan and Jan Wentz who vowed to continue with the program.

On Friday, Yenser’s Tree Farm held its 19th Trees for Troops celebration during which 250 Christmas trees were loaded into the back of a FedEx trailer where they will be transported Monday to Fort Johnson Army Base in Louisiana. More than 100 people attended including military veterans, children and political leaders.

Yenser and his brother, Dennis, still assist the Wentz’s at the farm and were present for the Trees for Troops program.

Drew said in the first year of Trees for Troops, there were 100 trees given from his farm to Trees for Troops. This year there are 250 trees being loaded into the trailer.

He said in the 19 years of the program, 7,500 trees have collectively been donated.

In addition, donations were received from various organizations for the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which administrates Trees for Troops.

Drew served with the Pennsylvania National Guard for six years. Dennis is a Vietnam War veteran where he served as a helicopter pilot and was with the National Guard for years after that. Their father, the late Charles Yenser, served in World War II and was in the National Guard for 32 years, advancing to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

The Lehighton United Veterans Organization color guard participated. The National Anthem was sung by the Lehighton Area High School chorus.

Among the speakers was Major General Jay Barry, retired from the U.S. Air Force. He said, “Each year my heart is really filled with gladness at what a small community can do for those who serve.” He reminded those in attendance that there are many men and women who presently are serving our country in the military and are away from home.

He urged that this holiday season, “Please keep our soldiers, Marines, seamen and airmen in your thoughts and prayers.”

Members of the Panther Valley JROTC and Lehighton Middle School students loaded the donated trees onto the FedEx truck for transport to the military base.

Barry presented a check totaling $250 to the Trees for Troops program.

Other donations received were:

• Lehighton United Church of Christ, $250.

• McAdoo VFW, $750.

• McAdoo AmVets, $750.

• Mountain City DAV, $750.

• Carbon County Veterans Counsel, $600.

• Vietnam Veterans of Carbon County, amount unknown.

• Lehighton Area High School National Honor Society, $1,956.

* St. John’s Church, Mahoning, $471.

• Panther Valley High School JROTC, $400.

• BHA Oak Ridge Academy, $430.

• Forest Inn Masonry, amount unknown.

• Jim Thorpe American Legion and Auxiliary, $800.

• Lehighton Middle School students, $640.

• Lehighton Elementary Center, $1,365.69.

• Lehigh Elementary, Northampton County, $1340.

• Sons of American Legion, Lehighton, $200.

• Palmerton American Legion Post, amount unknown.

• Palmerton VFW, $400.

• Lehighton American Legion Post, $300.

• Lehighton UVO, $300.

Ryan said a Trees for Troops weekend is being held this weekend at Yenser’s Tree Farm.

He said any funds in excess of the tree donations is given to the Christmas Spirit Foundation.

Major General Jay Barry, retired from the U.S. Air Force, right, speaks at Trees for Troops program at Yenser's Tree Farm in Mahoning Township, on Friday. Barry spoke about the importance of Trees for Troops. At left is Ryan Wentz, owner of Yenser's Tree Farm. Behind Barry is Kevin “Spike” Long of the Lehighton United Veterans Organization. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Sophia Serfass, an eighth grade student from Lehighton Middle School, removes trees from a platform for loading onto a trailer.
Members of the Panther Valley JROTC load Christmas trees into the back of a FedEx trailer for transport to Fort Johnson Army Base in Louisiana at Yenser's Tree Farm in Mahoning Township on Friday. Placing the trees in the truck are, from left, Kadance Wentz, Eric Hanson, Marielyn Berrios and Samantha Darosh. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS