CHICAGO (WLS) -- Another holiday tradition enters well into its third decade.
The Coast Guard delivered a shipload of Christmas trees at Navy Pier that are destined, as always, for struggling families.
In the cold, sunny light Saturday morning, the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw disgorged its holiday holdings: Christmas trees for Chicagoans.
The 1,200 trees were unloaded by young volunteers and will soon to be distributed by 16 social service agencies to bring a sense of safety and peace, especially to those down on their luck.
"That is what tradition brings to us and I think that over the past few years, dealing with COVID, a lot of us have realized how much peace and security and tradition. And with this Christmas tree tradition, this is fantastic and I am honored and blessed to be a part of it," said Timothy Tillman, Chicago Marine Safety Unit Commander for USCG.
As a hovering helicopter reminded onlookers of the lives lost at sea by Coast Guard members, the trees were eventually brought ashore, having been harvested in Michigan. A total of 28,000 trees have been donated as part of the Chicago Christmas Ship tradition since 2000.
Offering hope is a servant's calling said Coast Guard Commander Rear Admiral Michael Johnston.
"This tradition encapsulates the Midwest's humbleness -- close family ties and compassion for their community - but it also signifies resilience, hard work and teamwork associated with the life chosen to work at sea," ADM Johnston said.
The program works because local agencies connect to families in need, especially as this year with inflation stressing family budgets.
Having a tree at the holidays is a stabilizing force.
"This is a time for joy and happiness, and time for us to think about the positive things in life and all the gifts we are thankful for. So these trees represent not just that warmth and that hope, but that family," said Jamal Malone, executive director of Ada S. McKinley Community Services.
Saturday's Christmas tree event returned in full force for the first time since the pandemic started.