Chicago's Navy Pier Spruces Up the Season as USCG Cutter Delivers Over 1,000 Christmas Trees to Families in Need

Damon R. Sheffield
Published on December 03, 2023

Hoisting holiday spirits high, Chicago's Navy Pier witnessed its waters ripple with generosity as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw pulled into port, delivering over a thousand Yuletide evergreens in a majestic spectacle of the season's giving spirit; the 24th annual Christmas Ship event shimmering with community cheer and philanthropy. In a fresh pine-scented wave of goodwill, these trees—spirited from Michigan forests—will nestle into the homes of families in need, as the city embraces a time-honored tradition that not only decks the halls but also touches hearts, braving the winter chills with a warmth that emulates the true essence of the holidays.

While the "thwack" of balsam and fir announced their arrival in the brisk lakeside air, a band of volunteers rolled up their sleeves, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times; families across the city soon to be basking in the glow of good tidings. An 18-year-old JROTC cadet, Nick McDonald, injected a dose of youthful exuberance into the event, telling the publication, "You know the feeling in your stomach when you're like, 'I did something great today?' That's the feeling it gave me." Joining the ranks, Sonny Thatch, a previous high school cadet now serving as district commodore for the Coast Guard Auxiliary, echoed these sentiments in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, "I'm a product of the Chicago Housing Authority, and so the mission of the Christmas ship to provide these trees for needy families in Chicago so they can have a nice Christmas, that's a mission that resonates personally with me."

With the waters embracing Navy Pier bedazzled by lights, Captain Jeannette Greene spoke about the delight of this unique port call, with WLS noting, "We are sailors and sailors love a good port call," she said; her ship's historic role in the lake's buoy maintenance seamlessly dovetailing with a mission of mirth and goodwill.

This year's operation saw Ada S. McKinley Community Services, in concert with 20 other non-profits, taking the helm of distribution efforts, ensuring each piney parcel reaches its destined hearths. "It's feeling a part of belonging to the holiday season when you can have a Christmas tree," George Kisiel, chairman of Chicago's Christmas ship committee, told WLS, capturing the sentiment of the season's collective embrace as the community leans into a tradition that's become as integral to Chicago's winter tapestry as the snowflakes that dust its skyline. As Chris Stream from Ada S. McKinley put it to WLS, "What family doesn't deserve a Christmas tree in Christmas time," the organization's commitment not only fostering holiday joy but serving as a conduit for community services—a holly-jolly linchpin connecting families with the support they need when the world outside frost over.