The Kaufman Fund’s Trees for Vets program distributes Christmas trees to veterans, their families and veteran organizations.

Since 2014, The Kaufman Fund, with its sponsoring partner Enterprise Bank & Trust (formerly Eagle Bank), has distributed over 1,400 trees and tree stands through its Trees for Vets program to veterans, their families and veteran organizations. 

This year The Kaufman Fund worked with St. Patrick Center, UMSL, USO, Catholic Charities, several reserve units and others to obtain the names of veterans to receive trees. On Sunday, Dec. 9 they distributed over 300 trees and stands to pre-registered veterans at Enterprise Bank & Trust located at 14231 Manchester Rd in Manchester.  

“Last year the turn-out was so high that (Enterprise Bank) had to take names to schedule people,” stated Irwin Loiterstein, one of the Trees for Vets program planners.

Howard Berliner, one of the other planners, is responsible for ensuring each tree being distributed has been pre-assigned. This year, St. Patrick Center was slated to pick up 100 trees for distribution and another 75 trees were collectively pre-assigned to Sts. Joachim and Ann and VFW of Perryville.

“We have four different groups helping us,” stated Berliner. “We have volunteers that have been helping The Kaufman Fund through the years.”

Berliner also shared that this year they had volunteers on hand to serve food and coffee from Nothing Bundt Cake, Philly Pretzel Factory, and Our Coffee Guy during the distribution event. Military service people in uniform are also on hand to help with the yearly initiative, along with music from Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. 

This year volunteers from both the Northwest and West County Chambers of Commerce contributed their efforts. The Trees for Vets team also adds joy to their event by bringing dogs that accompanying children love to pet on pick-up day. One of The Kaufman Fund’s key resources is the C.H.A.M.P. (Canine Helpers Allow More Possibilities) Assistance Dogs nonprofit organization, whose belief is that dogs are not only our best friend, but they frequently serve as healing companions.

At one of the yearly events, military veteran Edward Smith who received a tree shared, “We just recently lost our house. So, we’ve been trying to muddle through and enjoy the holidays as much as possible. I wanted to try to do something for my family to make them happy.”

The Trees for Vets program has an official kick-off for its fundraising season on Veterans Day each year but accepts donations for the program all year long. Restaurants such as Raising Cane’s and the Pasta House hosts fundraisers for the program. Pizza World of Creve Coeur was also a part of the initiative this year.

One tree and stand donation is $30. Among the individual donors who contribute to the initiative, The Kaufman Fund has had a host of business community donors. Any money collected beyond the funding of distributed trees is used towards other veteran support provided by The Kaufman Fund. 

Berliner shared, “The St. Patrick Center has an apartment building called Freedom Place downtown off Delmar. They have 60-80 veterans who transition through their apartment building just to get them acclimated. Last year we gave out 86 coats to the people who reside there and this year we will be giving out 60 coats to the residents there. That’s one of the things the extra money from the trees has gone. In the last two years – almost 150 coats we’ve given out to St. Patrick Center.” 

“We are hoping to do more things like that,” stated Loiterstein. “The funds come in and nobody gets a salary. It all goes back to our projects.”

Jonathan Belcher, Sr. Director of Permanent Support for Housing of St. Patrick Center has shared, “Every year we get together a few times, talk about what the needs are, and they are really supportive and help. (They are) able to come through and support our veterans in what we’re doing at St. Patrick Center.”

To donate a tree(s) through sponsorship for 2019 visit: The Kaufman Fund welcomes your donations all year long for any of its initiatives which can be found by visiting The Kaufman Fund is dedicated to helping veterans in need. They strive to bring the veteran community together to help those in need of housing, counseling, healthcare, rehabilitation, and legal needs. 

CUTLINE: Submitted photos On Sunday, Dec. 9 volunteers distributed over 300 trees and stands to pre-registered veterans.