Mike Mason, vice president of The Lawn Pro.

By any measure, the GreenCare for Troops (GCFT) and SnowCare for Troops (SCFT) programs are successful. Few, if any, similar programs initiated by the green industry have attracted as much day-to-day interest, as many volunteers or have provided as much free service to as many homeowners.

GCFT and SCFT are outreach programs that match landscape and snow removal professionals with the families of men and women serving the country in the armed forces. The programs were created and are administered by Project Evergreen (pro ), a national nonprofit organization based in New Prague, Minn., and primarily funded by the green industry and its supplier community. Its larger mission is “to preserve and enhance green space in our communities for today and future generations.”

As of late November, more than 3,700 individuals and companies (most being landscape and lawn service companies) had registered to participate in GCFT. They had provided (or are providing) free landscape and lawn care services to approximately 10,000 families. In addition, about 900 families are being helped through SCFT.

Cub Cadet is underwriting the cost of GCFT and Boss Snowplow the cost of SCFT.

Mike Mason, CSP, vice president of the The Lawn Pro, Louisville, Ky., said his involvement in GCFT began about six years ago. His story is similar to those of hundreds of other green industry service providers who have participated in the program.

“We got involved because we were contacted by Project Evergreen, and they had a local family whose father/husband was stationed overseas. They had two small children and the mother needed some help just keeping the grass cut,” says Mason. “When we were contacted, I was very excited to jump at the opportunity to do something so small as mow a lawn for doing something so large as protecting our freedoms.”

Mason said the experience opened his eyes to the everyday challenges faced by the parent left to tend to the children and all of the home duties while their partner is serving overseas.

“We are all aware of the sacrifices that the soldiers or other military personnel are making, but we don’t always stop to consider how difficult it is for their families,” says Mason.

And, yes, sometimes it’s tough to fit an extra service or two into a weekly schedule, he says. “We just figure out a way to make it work.”

When they can’t provide the service, for instance when the family is out of their service area, they find another service provider who can help out.

Mason says Lawn Pro provided the GCFT service without any expectation of getting paid or receiving any publicity or recognition.

“It’s a simple way for us to give back to others,” says Mason.

For more information about either GCFT or SCFT, visit www.projectevergreen.com.

Ron Hall

A Spirit of Generosity Shared

I lunched with Nancy, a friend, the Saturday following Thanksgiving. We had worked together for several years before she returned to her Canadian hometown. I had not seen or heard from her in more than 10 years.

Recently, she emailed me and informed me that she had returned to the United States and had taken a job as an urban forester in North Carolina. I was delighted when she informed me she would be passing my way.

A small, smart, tough-willed young woman, she has lived on both coasts of the United States and Canada, working, as opportunities presented themselves, as an arborist, forester and, for a time, technical editor for a business magazine. A mutual friend told me several years ago that Nancy had been “downsized” in 2008 and had a tough time getting a new job. But she was in great spirits when we got together again because she was starting her new job in North Carolina the following Monday.

Standing in the holiday-festooned boulevard of one of those glitzy new retail developments and discussing where to eat, Nancy slipped a $5 dollar bill from her wallet, excused herself, and stuffed it into the red kettle at the side of the nearby Salvation Army bell ringer. As I hadn’t even acknowledged the existence of the bell ringer, never mind the kettle, I felt 5 inches tall – teeny tiny Ronnie.

I tried to sooth my conscience, reminding myself that on several occasions that past week I had donated the odd dollar or two to red kettles. However, I knew in my heart that the little that I had shared, I shared more from a sense of guilt rather than goodwill.

Nancy and I shared fun memories together over lunch, promised to keep in touch, wished each other well and went our separate ways, but her small and simple act of generosity stuck in my mind.

Returning home that particular Saturday, I called and volunteered to be a bell ringer, too. It turns out it’s not a tough job and it’s been fun talking with so many generous people. I hope your holidays have been as memorable.