O Christmas Tree! a Family Gives Back

UPDATED 12/21/2009 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/21/2009 at 01:00 AM EST

George and Lainie Garrick

Atherton, Calif.

It was Christmas 2006, and the Garricks had celebrated the holiday early so they could take a trip. They were ready to toss their tree when their babysitter told them of a family who couldn't afford a Christmas fir of their own. The Garricks passed along the tree but, Lainie says, "we realized there was more we could do."

And so was born a family tradition. For the past three years, Mom, Dad, Jonathan, 15, Victoria, 12, and William, 11, have set up on a lot in hard-hit Redwood City and given away 500 Christmas trees to families in need. George, 56, an Internet businessman, foots the $40,000 bill for the Noble firs from an Oregon farm, along with lights and ornaments. With family and friends, he saws the trees down, loads them and sometimes even delivers them. "This makes a real difference in hard times," says Teri Chin, director of the community center that helps with the giveaway.

Just ask Denise Bacchi, 49, who recently lost her temporary office job but who joyfully brought home a tree for herself and her 11-year-old son Andrew Dec. 5: "I can't say how much this raises my spirits."

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