Coast Guard delivers 1,200 Christmas trees to Navy Pier for families in need

The special mission is an annual holiday tradition
CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 1,200 Christmas trees were unloaded Saturday morning at Navy Pier as part of the Coast Guard's annual tradition.

While the spirit of giving lives on, the special mission didn't go without some changes because of the pandemic.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Mackinaw, docked at Chicago's Navy Pier filled with the precious cargo.

"We are glad to do this; we are happy to help," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrew Prioleau.

Each one headed down the Christmas tree ship's chute and out to a Chicago family need.

All the trees are paid for by private donations.

"We just have a little system here. They throw it down, and we pick them up and take them to the truck," Prioleau said.

The tradition has lasted more than two decades, but, this year, the pandemic forced plans to change.

The usual crowds were not at the dock to pick up the trees, but, instead, the crew themselves stacked and packed each one for delivery.

"We are coming out here ourselves, unloading the vessel and packaging it into the trucks," Prioleau said.

This year, more than a half dozen community groups will be delivering the trees to Chicago-area families.

One of the groups is the Englewood pastors.

"Because of COVID we weren't sure if they were going to do it this year, so we assured them that if the trees are available, we will be coming from the Navy Pier to Englewood to deliver those trees and help people with a little Christmas joy," said Pastor St. John Chisum.

The holiday spirit can be even more important this year as Chicago sits in the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, and people are left struggling financially and emotionally.

"You would be surprised how just a tree can make a difference in somebody's life," said Pastor Willard Peyton.

As for the Coast Guard, they said they are just happy to help.

"Give back to those that deserve it, "said Coast Guard Cmdr. Randy Preston.

After the trees are taken off those trucks, they will be given to families in need in a socially distanced delivery.
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