One family’s extra decorations can make holiday magic for another, and Timothy Moses is taking that to heart when it comes to Christmas trees.
The Spring Hill resident runs Jimmy’s Trees, a small non-profit that tries to make sure that families who can’t afford trees can still get them.
A few years ago, Moses was annoyed when his wife, Amy, bought a new artificial Christmas tree when they already had four others at home. He gave the older ones away through Craigslist, and that’s when he noticed how one little boy reacted to the tree.
The family receiving the tree had moved to the area from Pittsburgh, and “they only brought whatever they could fit in their four-door car, so they didn’t have much,” Moses said. “When I went out and delivered that tree, I helped them set up the tree. When the kids came home after school, they were amazed and really excited, and that’s when I learned it was their first Christmas tree.”
That was in 2011, and since then, Moses has been collecting artificial trees that people no longer want, refurbishing them and giving them away. The people who need them are often survivors of domestic violence, recovering from substance abuse or just going through some sort of financial hardship, he said.
“There’s a lot of trees going to landfills that we can repurpose, and there’s a lot of families who would love to have them,” he said.
Moses has collected table-top trees, 12-foot tannenbaums and everything inbetween.
Along with a few friends and members of his family, Moses checks each tree to make sure that it can be put together and that all the lights work. He and his team of six volunteers also write up new directions if the original instructions aren’t in the box.
If the lights don’t work, they either fix them or put new lights on, then package the tree with a stand, ornaments and a topper.
The whole operation began on a very small scale but really exploded this past season. In November, Moses put up a website where people could make requests for trees, and within two weeks, he had 127 requests. Most were local, but a few came from as far away as Chicago and Austin, Texas.
Moses took down the site for a few weeks after that, because he simply didn’t have enough trees to help everyone. He distributed the 62 trees he had on a first-come, first-served basis.
The real surprise was yet to come.
After Christmas, he asked for families all around the metro to donate trees they didn’t want anymore. With dropoff sites in Overland Park, Lee’s Summit and Zona Rosa, Moses collected about 500 trees, a staggering increase from last year.
Now, his main concern has shifted from not having enough trees to not having enough space to store them all. Right now, they’re in his basement and in two temporary storage units. Moses isn’t taking more trees at the moment, simply because he has nowhere to put them and still needs to find a more permanent storage area.
Storage units aren’t a good place for the long term, because it’s tough to take the trees out and work on them, he said. He’d like to find a warehouse space where he could store them and do the refurbishing work in the same facility.
Moses is trying to raise money to buy lights, ornaments, toppers and tree stands and hopes to establish a wholesale relationship with some manufacturers to bring costs down.
Giving people hope at Christmas has a special meaning for Moses. He named his tree-giving organization after his older brother James, who died on Christmas Eve when they were children.
He said he’s been “amazed at the generosity of Kansas City.”
“We often hear how Kansas City’s a great philanthropic community, and we’re seeing it firsthand,” Moses said.
▪ To donate, visit jimmystrees.org.