WHILE many of us will soon be placing angels on top of our Christmas trees, one Christmas tree company employs real-life angels.
Pines And Needles, launched by brothers Sam and Josh Lyle 13 years ago, takes on humanitarian workers for the seasonal sales drive.
When they are not selling Christmas trees in London over the festive season, these big-hearted volunteers are working in disaster zones or helping deliver vital aid across the world.
For many, their volunteer work would not be possible without their winter work with Pines And Needles, whose celebrity customers over the years have included Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Downing Street and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
One of those who believes spreading Christmas cheer and goodwill should carry on long after the conclusion of the festive season is Eilidh MacRae, from Skye.
She has worked with Pines And Needles, founded by the Scots brothers in 1995, for the past two years, having heard about the company from a fellow relief worker in Nepal.
Eilidh has been involved in relief and volunteering work for the past eight years, serving in places such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Haiti and Vietnam.
Once her work with Pines And Needles ends in January, she will return to Cambodia alongside her boyfriend Sean McLaughlin and friend Juan, both of whom also work for the company, to build a school with money donated from sales of Christmas trees.
Eilidh said: “Every year, Pines And Needles supports a charity and this year they are supporting Human Resource Development and Language Foundation (HDLF), which will send Cambodian students to university as well as building a school with the money donated.
“We hope to raise £10,000 during the festive period and it is nice to tell customers about where their potential donations are going.”
Eilidh, a regional manager in charge of six pop-up stores For Pines And Needles between October and January, said lots of volunteers, support workers and people affiliated with charities are attracted to working for the company, which grows its trees in Perth and Aberdeen.
The 38-year-old first wanted to become involved with volunteer work after the Thailand tsunami in 2004, but it was six years later, following the passing of a close friend, that she decided to visit Cambodia for a month over Christmas. “I volunteered in a school and I knew from that point on that I loved Cambodia so much,” she continued.
Since then she has been at the coalface of some of the worst disasters of recent times, working with American disaster relief NGO (non-governmental organisation) All Hands And Hearts. She met Sean in Nepal following the earthquake there three years ago.
Eilidh said: “I don’t want it to sound like we are saving the world or that I’m showing off about what I do. It’s hard to step away from this type of work once you get into it because it invigorates your soul.
“Of course, we do get emotional but we need to remove that side of it and deal with what’s in front of us. We won’t be of any use to anyone if we are over-emotional.
“We do end up falling in love with the communities and forming strong bonds, but we need to know when to step back.
“As well as helping them out of a terrible situation we have to give them tools to allow them to be sustainable.”
Pines And Needles isn’t the only Christmas tree company helping out others.
Caring Christmas Trees is able to support 7,000 people with homelessness and housing, addictions and basic furniture, as well as working with others in local communities, through the sale of Nordman Fir trees.