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America Supports You: Realtors Bring Christmas Spirit to Vets

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2007 – As the national Christmas tree, cut from Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, makes its way to Washington, it’s going to spread some holiday spirit at veterans facilities along the way, thanks to the National Association of Realtors.

Local realtors will make donations to veterans shelters or a veterans housing fund at each stop on behalf of the organization, Mary Trupo, an NAR spokeswoman, said. The Vermont Association of Realtors also is making donations.

“As soon as we heard (about the stops at veterans facilities), we jumped on board to be a part of it,” she said.

Trupo noted that according to a recent report, veterans make up 25 percent of the nation’s homeless population, though they’re only 11 percent of the population at large.

In addition to the donations at each stop, and another made in Las Vegas during the National Association of Realtors annual meeting, the organization is working with Congress to address the issue of homeless veterans. Trupo said the trip with the tree was one way individual realtors could get involved with the effort.

“This is sort of a launch for us to do more,” she said.

For the time being, the smiles and gratitude of the veterans along the way will suffice, said Brenda Jones, a member of the Vermont Association of Realtors and the Bennington (Vt.) Chamber of Commerce, the lead sponsor of the national tree’s trip. She’s traveling with a group that includes eight retired crew members of the USS Bennington.

“We’ve been to two facilities so far, and the veterans are so pleased that we have come in to see them and we’re actually taking the time to come and sit with them,” Jones said Nov. 20. “They just totally welcomed us. It was wonderful.”

To help extend the holiday spirit past their visit, some of the 80 companion trees that are traveling with the 60-foot balsam fir national tree are being left behind at each of the 12 stops.

Yesterday the group paused in Danbury, Conn., to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a church that feeds the homeless.

On its way to the Ellipse in front of the White House, the tree is scheduled to stop at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., as well as Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.

While the national Christmas tree waits on the Ellipse for the annual Pageant of Peace to be lit on Dec. 6, Congress will hold its own ceremony the day before.

Three individuals are scheduled to help light the congressional tree. Two are winners of a Vermont ornament-making contest. The third, Phil Landis, a San Diego realtor, earned one of the National Association of Realtors’ five annual “Good Neighbor” awards for his work with Veterans Village of San Diego, an intensive rehab and training facility for homeless veterans. Landis, a Vietnam veteran who earned a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantryman Badge, is on the organization’s board of directors.

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