YORK, Pa. — A couple of weeks ago, Jeff Graham and his family showed up at McPherson’s Tree Farm in Pennsylvania, driving a rollback — a truck with a 22-foot-long bed meant to hold a vehicle for towing.
Graham, 36, was only there for one — but it made him think about buying trees for everyone shopping at the farm that day. Could that be his personal gift this holiday season? But then he thought better of it. If families were there, they were likely already able to afford a Christmas tree.
As the sole provider at home, Graham himself had a few tough months at the beginning of the pandemic this year, with little work for his towing business. His business thankfully picked up, and he wanted to help community members who were still struggling — this holiday season more than ever. So, Graham took his tree that day and made a plan to return.
When he did, his wife, daughter and two employees joined him. They asked for 30 trees to be cut down.
“At first they looked at me like they didn’t believe it,” Graham said.
That’s because it was a first, according to Gian Walker. She’s the fourth generation of family to work at the McPherson Tree Farm, and her 9- and 10-year-old children are the fifth.
“For all of those generations, none of us can remember someone doing something like this,” she said.
Started in the 1950s by her great grandfather, Sidney McPherson, it’s a family hobby to grow and prune the trees — more than 12,000 of them now.
John Gouker, a McPherson descendant (and Walker’s father), was there when Graham showed up with his rollback.
Gouker was curious about the number of trees Graham wanted, so, according to Walker, he asked something like, “I don’t mean to be nosy, but what are you going to do with all these trees?”
Walker told him that he wanted to provide a gift to others struggling this holiday.
“My dad was taken aback, and he got a little choked up,” Walker said. “We’ve never had anybody do something like that.”
This year, a tough year for so many, the tree farm has had more feel-good moments than usual — people paying it forward.
“Nothing on this scale though,” Walker said. “It was a real honor and a privilege to be a part of this.”
In about 90 minutes, the bed of the truck was filled. Graham had put out a notification on Facebook that he’d be giving away trees at a local, pre-owned car parking lot. He thought his post would make its way to people who needed help, and it did.
When Graham, his family and employees showed up, a line of people was already waiting for them. One of those people was a woman, who, like the others, graciously accepted a tree and an unexpected envelope from Graham.
The woman walked back to her car with the envelope and opened it, discovering that Graham had given her a generous gift card as well. She walked back to the group, crying and thankful for what they had done.
Graham had spent nearly $1,100 on the trees and even more on all the gift cards.
“That one woman right there, that made it all worth it,” he said. “That was the feeling you were going for.”
His wife was there and their two kids, who handed out candy canes to the people who had come for a tree.
“We were all happy. Everybody was happy. If nobody else showed up, that one lady, that made it all worth it,” he said.