'Christmas Ship' brings 1,200 trees to Navy Pier for Chicago families

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The smell of the holidays is in the air volunteers unload 1,200 Christmas trees from a massive Coast Guard Ship at Chicago's Navy Pier Saturday morning.

It's a team effort as students help Coast Guard members move the trees into trucks and send them out to families across the city, just in time for Christmas.

"It's a good way to kick off the holiday season," said Jamal Malone, CEO of Ada McKinley Community Services. "It's a beautiful team effort."

The beloved holiday tradition returns to Chicago's Lakefront to spread Christmas cheer.

"The spirit of Christmas," said Lolita Preston. "It's just to see all the people coming out and I started seeing all the trucks arrive so I wanted to be a part of the special day."

The Chicago Christmas Ship committee brings these trees in each year from northern Michigan, with the help of generous donations.

As the ship conducts its routine work of maintain buoys on Lake Michigan, it makes a pit stop at Navy Pier for Santa and Coast Guard members to drop off these trees.

It's a moment of hope around the holidays for everyone involved.

"I decided that I should go out into the community and talk to the people getting the trees, and what I found out is there's no purpose in giving the trees to well-to-do people. We're gonna go to the communities that are not well to do and they loved it," said Captain Dave Truitt, founder of the Christmas Ship committee.

Ada McKinley Community Services helps deliver the trees to families who might not have otherwise had one.

"I think about the joy we as a family have sitting around our Christmas tree and we just want to share a little bit of that with each of the 1,200 families we're working with to get a tree into their home," Malone said.

The CPS Taft High School Choir even added to the ceremony Saturday, with many people taking in all of this holiday spirit.

"We hear so much about things that are negative," Preston said. "It's good to see something so positive, full of cheer -- full of happiness and hope."
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