Oh Christmas Tree Ship
The Mackinaw

Oh Christmas Tree Ship

Oh Christmas Tree Ship

The holiday season is an exceptionally good time to do some good in your community.  We recently volunteered aboard the Christmas Tree ship which provided a unique and fun service opportunity

Geocache method

By GeoCache Method

Here are three ideas  to get you out of the house this season, do great good, and embrace the holiday spirit:

Don’t let a bell go unanswered. Keep a supply of smaller bills on hand to add to the bucket every time you hear the bell of the Salvation Army. You know you will see them. Give every time. 

• One of my favorite go-to volunteer activities is helping out at Feed My Starving Children. It is a great way to do good, feel good and help children around the world with a 2-3-hour volunteer commitment. Check out Feed My Starving Children Visit for locations and information. 

• Plug in your zip code at Neighborhood of Good to learn of volunteer causes in your area.


I recently participated in a long standing Chicago holiday tradition, volunteering to unload 1,500 donated Christmas trees for needy families from the Christmas Tree Ship docked at Navy Pier. It was a fun activity with a really interesting history which added to the allure.

The Christmas Tree Ship goes back to 1885 when two brothers, Chicagoans August and Herman Schuenemann built their fortune in the shipping industry on the Great Lakes. The brothers were excellent sailors and businessmen and developed a reputation as Christmas tree merchants. It was a harrowing time to be a sea merchant on the Great Lakes, when ships often sank in bad weather. In November of 1889, August was returning from Sturgeon Bay, WI with a load of 3,500 trees when the ship encountered a winter squall and sank near Glencoe, IL. August and the crew were lost. 

Herman continued to operate the business and invested in sturdier ships as technology advanced. Around 1910 he purchased a 240-acre tree farm in Northern Michigan and the ship, the Rouse Simmons, capable of transporting 5,000 Christmas trees annually that Herman would donate to families in Chicago. Chicagoans would watch for the ship with a tree lashed to the main mast to arrive in the harbor.

Fast forward to today when a dozen organizations come together each year to recreate this tradition and provide thousands of Christmas trees to deserving Chicago families. This year, it started to rain as we arrived at Navy Pier. We assembled alongside the massive Coast Guard Ship which delivers the trees these days. For three hours in the rain, we were part of an effective and efficient brigade transferring thousands of trees from the ship to trucks that would deliver them to families ready to celebrate the season. 

Even despite the rain, it was a great experience, and it was also fun to see the press coverage later that day of the ship arriving in the harbor and being unloaded. I was glad to be a part of it and look forward to next year with holly in my heart.

Thank you for reading this post.  If you have a go to volunteer activity or organization, please share this in the comments below.

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Volunteer work