During the holidays, live Christmas trees bring hope and smiles. Beyond the holiday season, they can also provide support.
Jamie Willis of Copperas Cove, Texas, a disabled U.S. Army veteran, turns recycled trees into walking canes for veterans – thanks in part to the donation of over 400 trees from The Home Depot store in Killeen, Texas.
Jamie got the idea from Florida-based Canes for Veterans while seeking a sturdy cane of his own. Oscar Morris, the founder of the original group, taught Jamie how to make his own cane and encouraged him to start his own Texas cane-making group because of growing demand.
Canes for Veterans Central Texas began in 2016.
“Jamie wanted something to do as a way with dealing with his PTSD,” says Megan Kent, the secretary of the group. “It started locally but now we get orders from all over.”
The recycling effort of hope has now grown to an expected 1,300-1,400 canes that will be distributed this year. Megan and her husband work with Jamie to collect the nearly 2,000 trees donated, dry them out and carve canes shipped to veterans across the globe.
“We get orders from all over – Australia, New Zealand, Korea,” says Megan.
The organization accepts donations for shipping costs but often does it free of charge. The stories they get in return from veterans are rewarding.
“We hear some very meaningful and touching stories,” Megan says. “It’s like they have somebody, something else to lean on with their canes. They feel like somebody out there cares for them and they’re not alone.”
Eric Cook, an assistant manager at the Killeen Home Depot who helped drop off the recycled trees, says employees and their families enjoy their part in giving back.
“The cool thing is this is a military town and a lot of retired military live here and work at The Home Depot,” Eric says. “So, when we help them with the donated trees, they see that it’s not just giving back to their community but giving back to veterans as well.”