How to donate

Those interested in donating decorations to the Christmas Tree Project of Bend or who are in need of a tree, can contact Lindsay Greco at 541-699-8200. Donations are accepted year-round. Trees are available until Christmas Eve.

Dan Tovrea is trying to make the best of this Christmas season — the first one since his father, Owen, died in September. Tovrea decorated the La Pine home he shares with his mother, Sharon, and wanted to use an ornament that includes a photo of his later father.

Tovrea, 58, hasn’t been physically able to work in seven years after a career in manufacturing and commercial fishing, and his 79-year-old mother is on a fixed income from social security.

They couldn’t afford a tree this year.

In their time of need they contacted the Christmas Tree Project of Bend, and were able to take home a tree Thursday to decorate in Owen’s memory.

The volunteer group was founded by Bend resident Lindsay Greco, who operates out of her garage.

Greco collects donated trees and decorations for families who do not have the means to buy their own, and for those with disabilities who have challenges decorating for Christmas.

“As far as I’m concerned, this place is a blessing,” Dan Tovrea said. “What they do for people, allowing them to have a Christmas, is outstanding.”

Greco, 57, started the Christmas Tree Project of Bend in 2014, a year after her husband, Domenic, died from a 4-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as ALS.

Greco, who was living in Philadelphia at the time, was her husband’s primary caregiver.

During the holidays, decorating and getting a tree were the furthest things from her mind.

Looking back, Greco wishes there was an organization like the Christmas Tree Project to make the holidays more festive for her husband and two sons, Devon and Brandon.

“At the time, I didn’t realize how important it was,” she said. “But now, I realize I missed some really amazing memories with my husband the last couple years of his life.”

After her husband died in 2013, Greco moved to Bend to be closer to her son, Brandon, his wife, Meadow, and her two grandchildren, Blake, 14, and Avonlea, 11.

Greco began volunteering at Bend Community Center, where she became the board president in 2017 and helped the organization until it dissolved in February.

After arriving in Bend, Greco volunteered to help at the community center on Thanksgiving, the first holiday after Domenic’s death.

She overheard people talking about not having a Christmas tree.

Inspired by her own experience and hearing from others in need, she decided to start the Christmas Tree Project the following year. There is just something special about having a tree at Christmas, Greco said.

“It ends up being the thing we clear our room for. It’s the thing we move furniture around for. It’s the thing we want in the window for everyone to see,” she said. “It makes us think of Christmas.”

Greco has provided trees to families across the region, from north of Madras to south of La Pine. In the first year, the project gave out about 70 trees. Since then, the project averages about 100 trees each Christmas, which is expected again this year.

Greco sometimes delivers the trees, even bringing them on Christmas eve.

She never questions a person’s need.

“If a family is in need, I trust that honor system,” she said. “They are in need if they say they are in need.”

The project accepts donated decorations year-round, and receives donated trees from area farms and lots.

Greco, who works full-time as the store manager at Wilson’s of Redmond, relies on a dozen volunteers who help compile the donated decorations into boxes for families to take home with their trees. Each box is filled with ornaments, a tree topper, lights, hangers and a skirt.

People can drop off donated decorations at Greco’s house or at B & B Autoworks in Redmond, where Greco’s son, Brandon, is the owner.

On Thursday, Bend resident Eve Stevenson came to Greco’s house to donate a box of homemade ornaments. Many of the ornaments were made by Stevenson when she was in the sixth-grade and have sentimental value.

“I want them to go to a family who deserves it,” she said.

Stevenson also had a deep connection to Greco’s mission. She has been personally affected by ALS, losing three people in her life to the disease.

She wasn’t aware of Greco’s experience with ALS until after she donated her decorations. She plans to come back next year with her 19-year-old son to volunteer at the project.

“I was just going to donate because I love the promise of getting a tree for people who couldn’t have one,” Stevenson said. “It was totally meant to be.”

For Tovrea and his family, bringing home a Christmas tree is a tradition they are grateful to continue this year. Tovrea is inviting his sister, her finance and their children over for Christmas day.

They will share a ham dinner and memories of their late father.

“It will be a full house,” Tovrea said.

Before Tovrea loaded his car Thursday with his tree, he stopped to give Greco a hug.

“You offer this to people and it allows them to have a nice Christmas,” he told her. “You don’t know how much we appreciate it.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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