Atlanta Takedown Association provides Christmas trees to those in need

Updated: December 23, 2021

Photo: Kaylee Cothern, former wrestler and manager of Mountain View High School in Georgia, is among volunteers of the Atlanta Takedown Association that is providing Christmas trees to needy in this Georgia community.

By Sandy Stevens

“Buy a Tree. Change a Life.”

Members of the Atlanta Takedown Association literally bought into that belief again last month, purchasing 10 Christmas trees to be given to families unable to buy the season’s staple.

For the past seven years, ATA board member Craig Cothern has volunteered for the Alabama-based non-profit, selling trees at a site in Buford, Ga., one of 54 throughout the country. Proceeds benefit families locally and globally.

“Most of the donors are individuals, and 100 percent of the money raised goes to each local site,” Cothern said.

Tree sales at the Buford site, set up on the front lawn area of Neighborhood Church, ran for 17 days.

“We had 677 trees this year and gave away about three dozen,” Cothern said.

Sometimes recommendations for families needing help come via an organization like Angel Tree or the church’s food pantry, but as a volunteer, “you just kind of know” which families need the help, Cothern said.

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This season, a mother and her two teens came shopping. They didn’t know Cothern, but he recognized it was a wrestling family whose husband and father had died a couple years ago.

“With COVID and its effects on the economy, she was really struggling this year,” he said. “She was just trying to make things special for her kids for the holidays.”

Eyeing a small tree, the mom asked if she could split the cost on two credit cards.

“There are some people who would like to give you this tree,” Cothern responded.

Breaking into tears, she said, “I’m not looking for a handout. I’d just like to see if I can afford it.”

That family went home with a donated tree.

Four years ago, Cothern recalled, a mother with two upper elementary-age children asked him to take her to the cheapest tree.

“She was a single mom just trying to make ends meet,” he said.

Instead, he took her to a large pine and told her it was hers.

“This is literally our Christmas miracle,” she said in tears.

But that wasn’t all.

“She got a great job, and the next two years, she bought trees from us,” Cothern said. “Then her kids started volunteering.”

“That,” he said, “is the beauty of what we do.”

Note: Craig Cothern welcomes donations to the Atlanta Takedown Association Christmas tree charity  by going online