In my New York City neighborhood, you can find carcasses of Christmas trees discarded on the street anytime from December 26th to July. There are even folks who document the more egregious examples of tardily thrown out trees. But one Texas man is putting used Christmas trees to good use — he’s designing canes for veterans using them.
US Army veteran Jamie Willis served in the Army for eight years. When he left, he was disabled and unable to work. He started Canes for Veterans Central Texas in 2016. He wanted a cane that was safe, sturdy, “and not just ugly” — and he saw he wasn’t alone.
“I do this so I don’t sit home all day feeling sorry for myself,” Willis told CNN. “This is all out of kindness. I do everything out of pocket and from donations.”
Jamie Willis started making canes when he met Oscar Morris, the man in charge of Florida organization Free Canes for Veterans.
“When I successfully sat down and made my very first cane, I asked him if I could branch it off and start Cane for Veterans in Central Texas and he said he would love for me to do that,” Willis said.
Since then, the 50-year-old has made and delivered more than 200 canes to veterans who live all over the world.
This is the second year Willis has asked for tree donations, and he says he has been inundated with support.
“Home Depot flooded me with trees, they’re sending me 400, and the rest of the community will be giving me about another 100 trees,” he said.
Each Christmas tree is the equivalent of one cane. The cane takes Willis one day to make, package, and ship. Willis covers all costs from his own pockets as well as donations. If a veteran can’t afford to pay for shipping, he will ask them to help with that cost. For people who cannot donate trees, they can supply sandpaper and tools for Willis.
“It’s been an outpouring of donations this year, more than I ever thought I would get,” Willis said.