CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some 1,200 local families will have a happier holiday season, thanks to the Coast Guard's Christmas Tree Ship.
The crew off-loaded the trees from a chute off the cutter Mackinaw Saturday at Navy Pier.
The ship re-enacts what was once an annual tradition back in the late 1800s where concerned mariners brought holiday trees from Michigan to Chicago.
Timothy Overocker brought 30 of his Kenosha students to help unload the Mackinaw this year.
"We've been doing this now for six years," he said. "The kids love it. It's a great way to get a jump on the Christmas spirit, get a little community service out of it, too."
"When you bring the tree out, you know it's the holiday season, it's good," said Adam Larson, Lakeview Technology Academy.
These kids know that a tree can be considered a luxury item, so they're helping other kids and their families less fortunate.
The trees will be transported to 20 inner-city community organizations from there to the neediest families.
"For a lot of families today that are going to receive trees this year, it's going to mean a lot to them," said Robin Jakubowski, Lakeview Technology Academy.
Over the years, 19,000 Christmas trees have been handed out since this re-enactment began 16 years ago.
"It feels really good just knowing that this is a simple thing as unloading Christmas trees can help so many families," said Veronica Lynch.
The sun shone brightly above naval and non-military volunteers, which makes the founding chairman proud.
"It's one of the most wonderful things a person can be involved in," said Captain Dave Truitt.
Coast Guard ship unloads Christmas trees for needy Chicago families