By Staff Sgt. Noshoba Davis, Louisiana National Guard Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard (LANG) Office of Family Programs (OFP) distributed over 100 Christmas trees donated by Ryder Tree Farm to service members across the state, Dec. 1-2.
William “Bill” Ryder, owner of Ryder Tree Farms, served in the LANG as a heavy equipment operator in the early 70s. He said that as a Soldier his job was to serve the people of Louisiana in times of need, and that the LANG still does the same today. He said that he wanted to donate to show his appreciation to service members and their families for their sacrifices.
“My wife and I can only hope that the donated Christmas trees will bring a little joy and happiness to the troops and their families,” said Ryder. “We would like to wish each and every one of them a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”
The OFP’s Command Sgt. Maj. Larry Johnson and 1st Sgt. Johnny Hagen personally harvested all of the donated trees at the tree farm in Pollock, Louisiana, Nov. 29. After harvesting, the trees were shipped to LANG installations in Baton Rouge, Minden, New Orleans and Pineville to be given to service members with an accompanying Christmas tree safety and care cards.
“Our online registration included an area where a service member could indicate if they were experiencing a hardship, and with that we were able to provide confidential assistance to over 18 families,” said Rebecca Barlow, a Soldier and Family Readiness Specialist in the LANG OFP. “That is the beauty of an outreach like this; people can confide in us and we are able to connect them to specialized support services that stabilize the family or service member.”
OFP hopes to make the Christmas tree giveaway an annual occurrence.
“Putting events on like this is a great way to open our doors to the service members and their families, so they know the Office of Family Programs is here to assist year around, not just in times of deployment,” said Barlow. “Our service members deserve this type of community support, and I am so thankful to the Ryder family for making it all possible.”