When Lincoln Elementary School Principal Cody Rierson looked at the storage space in the building's attic, he knew something had to be done.
"You couldn't see across the room," Rierson said. "It was filled with junk."
At the time he became the school's principal, the building was under construction, adding on a cafeteria and classrooms.
"Everyone just threw their stuff upstairs and it became a disaster," Rierson said. "One of my goals was to get that organized."
As he looked around the storage space piled high with different items, one thing caught Rierson's eye — an abundance of green branches.
"I noticed we had a lot of Christmas trees upstairs," Rierson said.
Some of those Christmas trees were decades old, labeled with the names of teachers who taught at Lincoln Elementary when Rierson was a student there himself.
"I came up here and we started counting trees," Rierson said. "We had a lot more than we thought."
While some of the Christmas trees would be taken down to decorate classrooms at Christmastime, others were never touched.
"That started to make me think, 'you know, we really need to do something with these trees. People need these trees,'" Rierson said.
Last year, Rierson gave one tree to a family in need. This year, Christmas trees ranging in size from tabletop to seven feet tall were brought down from the attic.
"We had at one point 10 trees that we had collected," Rierson said.
Rierson used two small trees to decorate the office area, donated one tree to a school custodian and another to a teacher to use in her classroom. The other trees were taken to Save ‘N Share, where he encountered a woman looking for a Christmas tree.
"She said, 'I have a senior citizen neighbor who needs a tree, and that would be perfect for her,'" Rierson said. "I just gave the tree to them."
As principal, Rierson said he realizes he must ensure items and space are used responsibly.
"I like to utilize the resources we have," Rierson said. "I don't like to throw stuff away, but I also like people to know I'm being smart with their tax dollars, that I run a tight budget and that I make sure that the space and the items we have at Lincoln, we're utilizing."
The attic is now organized with wood shelving that is labeled with storage spaces for each class.
"I take pride in a lot of the stuff we do here, and this is a stuff that people don't see," Rierson said. "But I've got a good staff and we try to use everything that we have, no matter what."
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.