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PHOTOS: St. John Lutheran Students Design Trees From Home

Local students helped decorate miniature Christmas trees to send to military troops overseas.

Christmas tunes play in the background during a sunny, 70-degree September day. At older students help the younger ones hot-glue decorations to miniature Christmas trees that will be sent off around Veteran's Day to brighten up the holidays for troops overseas.

John Stuhlmacher, said this project began when he was deployed in Baghdad when his mom, Julie, sent over a tree. 

"Where we were, everything was just tan," he said. "So, to have something this colorful just show up and be Christmasy, it was a nice little piece of home when you couldn't be there. When we went back to our little rooms, it was like being back home almost."

Julie Stuhlmacher, John's mother, sent him an 18-inch, decorated Christmas tree when he was deployed in 2003-04.

"I never crafted a day in my life and this has been the absolute best project," Julie said. "It's so worth while." 

And John said when he got the tree, they all ordered decorations and made their living quarters "Christmasy."

"When we went back to our little rooms, it was like being back home almost," he said. 

That one tree began a philanthropic movement in the North Shore, with the group having sent more than 5,000 trees to date. 

"My wife was getting deployed so we said, 'Now we really, really need to get this going.,'" John said "We set out with the intention of making 180 packages and it ballooned to 1,500 in the first year. Once the word got out, people said, 'I want that for my son, my husband,' and how do you say no?" 

Students decorated about 100 trees Friday they will all be sent out on Nov. 12 in honor of Veterans Day.

John said while these trees are certainly not a necessity like a toothbrush or deodorant, they mean so much more because, in this case, they're created by a four-year-old just for you. 

"I don't really see any stopping. We've touched so many people's hearts," Julie said. "We touch the hearts of those we send to, and we touch the hearts of those who are able to volunteer."

If you would like to make a donation, checks or money orders can be mailed to: Trees From Home, 2130 Brantwood Avenue, Glendale WI 53209. You can also send a monetary donation via PayPal.

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