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HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. — A Fortville family is turning the community’s discarded Christmas trees into support for veterans.

Joe and Sue Ferrell have been married for 22 years. They’re both retired, but they keep busy creating items for craft shows and supporting the military.

This past year, Joe, who sells handmade walking sticks at crafts shows, decided it was time to step back from it. Unsure how to fill his time or if he should continue to make walking sticks, he and his wife Sue learned of an out-of-state effort to turn Christmas trees into support staffs for veterans. It was the perfect match.

The Ferrells connected with those in Florida and Texas already taking requests for canes and walking sticks and started collected trees for the task. Some were recently decorated in neighbors’ living rooms and others were leftovers donated by the Shadeland Lowe’s store.

The couple says they lost count at 120 trees in their driveway and yard.

“Oh, my gosh. We have bit off more than we can chew. We’ve got to get through it whether it’s spring, whether it’s March or April by the time we do the last one. We’ve gotta get through them and we have to find a place to store them,” Sue said.

They are de-branching them one by one, which is a team effort. Then the tree trunks can be shaved, sanded, shaped and stained to make a one-of-a-kind cane.

“You hate to just go through them like that, but like I say, if it works out for these veterans to have something then we’ve got something going,” Joe said.

The couple is in need of some community support to complete their service project. They need volunteers to help de-branch the trees, a dry place to store the stripped trunks until they’re ready for the next phase of work, and they would like help with the social media and administrative duties that come with a project like this. They do not need more trees at this point though. They said they have plenty to work with for now.

If you’d like to help email the Ferrells at

(Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)