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It was like Christmas came early for Tanya Edwards in the brisk chill on Saturday afternoon.

The 40-year-old Detroiter and her nephew Lamon Johnson, 12, loaded the back of her truck with two Christmas trees — free as part of a giveaway to the public and sponsored by McDonald’s — in the parking lot outside the fast food restaurant on Eight Mile at Woodward Avenue.

“I feel pretty good about it. I’ve never even had a real tree before so I’m kinda excited,” said Edwards, who minutes later went back and got another tree for another relative. “I’ve always had the artificial trees. Actually my cousin had come up here and said that they were giving out trees and to pass the word along.”

And the word spread fast as 500 trees were given away to families starting at 1 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. One tree was provided to each person who showed up, and in some cases, people came jammed in cars as volunteers helped to secure multiple trees on tops of vehicles.

Organizers said that prior to the public giveaway, another 500 trees were given in the morning to families in need and preselected by Detroit-area churches. Meijer provided 500 tree stands to those families, as well as $20 Meijer and $5 McDonald’s gift cards.

Some people waited in line to have trees strapped on to their cars or loaded into trucks; others simply walked up and carried the trees ranging from 5 to 7 feet tall to their vehicles.

Savarior Moss-Service, owner of the McDonald’s near Eight Mile and Woodward, said the Christmas tree giveaway was another way to give back to the community, as were the 1,200 turkeys given away on Tuesday for Thanksgiving.

“We decided that it would be good to take it one step further, so we came up with the idea with our public relations company and said, how about Christmas trees,” Moss-Service said. “We always like to set aside our advertising dollars and budget to actually do things in the community. Usually we’re giving away scarfs, hats, mittens around this time of the year but this time we said Christmas trees. It makes the house more festive.”

Elizabeth Riachi, 54, of southwest Detroit, had some friends help her fetch at least four trees and place them on the roof of the SUV she was being driven in, a few of them for neighbors who couldn’t make it.

“We’re donating them to the seniors in the neighborhood,” Riachi said. “They couldn’t get out here. Some of them are not walking but we want to share their Christmas.”

Yamirka Torres, 24, who rode with Riachi, said she usually buys real trees every year at Home Depot for $25 to $30 but changed her mind when she found out about the giveaway.

“A lot of people decided to come together,” Torres said. “It saves gas.”

Most importantly, Riachi said these trees will “bring a little cheer” to people’s lives, especially those who don’t have access to a Christmas tree.

“If we come into their home and put up the tree, that will be a blessing,” she said.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming

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