Local group, U.S. Coast Guard continue centuries old tradition to bring Christmas trees to the needy

Mackinaw
The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw sails from the Upper Peninsula with 1,200 hundred Christmas trees delivered to Navy Pier. Photo credit Mike Krauser/ WBBM Newsradio

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago’s Christmas Tree Ship Committee and the U.S. Coast Guard, for the 22nd year, have carried on a tradition dating to the late 1800's, bringing Christmas trees from the Upper Penninsula for the less fortunate.

The Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw sailed from the Upper Peninsula with 1,200 hundred Christmas trees delivered to Navy Pier.

The Commander is Kristen Sermgard, who called the 240-foot cutter “a fine big red sleigh,” that’s continuing the tradition of the 19th century schooner, the Rouse Simmons, which was the original vessel used for this initiative and Captain Herman Schueneman.

"What made Captain Schueneman unique is that he would always set aside a few Christmas trees to give to those who could not afford one," said Sermgard.

She said on the way down the lake, the Mackinaw stopped for a "solemn ceremony" to honor the lives lost on Nov. 23, 1912 when the Rouse Simmons got lost in a storm and sank while carrying 5,500 Christmas trees.

Over 22 years, the Mackinaw has delivered more than 26,000 Christmas trees for the less fortunate.