Move over, Sandy — the holidays are here.
The ongoing cleanup from October’s superstorm took a backseat on Monday morning during the ninth annual DHL Operation Holiday Cheer at Dees’ Nursery in Oceanside.
The groundwork for what has become an annual tradition, dubbed Trees for Troops, began in 2004 when Tom DiDominica Sr., then the owner of Dees’, found it difficult to help one of his customers send a Christmas tree to her son in Iraq. DiDominica shared the story with another of his regulars, James Adelis Sr. of East Rockaway, whose son, James Jr., had been deployed to Iraq earlier that year.
Adelis, the owner of Adelis Securities at Kennedy International Airport, told DiDominica that if he could supply the trees, Adelis would take care of the overseas transport. Adelis made some calls to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the shipping company DHL and local businesses to get the ball rolling.
In the years since, Trees for Troops has grown, sending hundreds of trees and thousands of thank-you letters from children to troops in combat zones throughout western Asia and the Middle East.
On Monday, DiDominica asked for a moment of silence at the beginning of the program in honor of Greg Buckley, of Oceanside, and Ronald Winchester, of Rockville Centre, both Marines who were killed while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale were on hand for the event, along with many NCPD officers, to show their support for the program and offer their thanks to those serving abroad. “We’re in Nassau County’s most challenging time, certainly in recent memory and in the minds of many of the people standing here today,” Mangano said. “It’s just heartwarming to see that we gather, neighbors helping neighbors, to get through these challenging times, and we still find time to remember our men and women serving in the United States military, who make sacrifices each and every day.”