Buffalo, NY – A holiday season tradition in the Buffalo area will continue this year, despite the death of the man who started it all. Free Christmas trees will be given away to those in need Saturday morning.
It started nearly 20 years ago, a collaboration between Erie County Legislator Charles Swanick and Arida Trees in Tonawanda. But David Arida, who first donated surplus trees from his tree farm as a way to help the needy, died unexpectedly this year. Thursday, as a biting wind blew outside Arida Trees' location on Sheridan Drive in Tonawanda, Swanick said Arida's brother Tom is committed to continuing the tradition. And even though he is leaving office at the end of the year, Swanick said the tree giveaway will live on.
"We are already working with the Arida family and some sponsors to continue the program in the years going forward," Swanick said. "And I expect I'll be involved too, because once you do this, you never forget the faces of the kids."
Swanick said thousands of trees have been given away over the past 20 years. He said it all depended on how the economy was doing in any given year.
"When things are good, more people go out and buy trees," Swanick said. "But this year has been a struggle. People are concerned about their work. So, we expect a good turnout."
Arida had sold most of its trees for the year. But Swanick promised there will be a sufficient supply for this year's giveaway.
The trees will be given away Saturday morning, starting at 8:30 at the Philip Sheridan School back parking lot in Kenmore.