What is Chicago’ Christmas Ship?

Chicago’s Christmas Ship is a charitable activity administered by an all volunteer Executive Committee comprised of leaders of the Chicago recreational, professional and military maritime community under the aegis of the Chicago Council of the Navy League of the United States,

What is the charitable work that that is done?

The organization raises funds to purchase Christmas trees to be distributed to less fortunate families with children, who would not otherwise be able to have a Christmas tree. The organization also coordinates the donation of needed goods and services by cooperating organizations to selected tree recipients.

How many trees have been distributed?

Over 12,000 trees have been distributed to less fortunate families from Christmas 2000 through Christmas 2009.

How many trees will be distributed this year?

It is our goal to distribute over 1,200 trees per year depending on contributions.

Where do the trees come from?

The trees come from various growers in the Cheboygan, Michigan area.  The growers are proud of the Mackinaw's role as the new Christmas Tree Ship and are pleased to participate in this noble tradition.

Does the Coast Guard buy the trees?

No. The Chicago Christmas Ship Executive Committee raises the funds to purchase the trees through donations from the Chicago marine community and other supporters.

The volunteer efforts of the men and women of the US Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and particularly the officers and Crew of the Cutter Mackinaw are a greatly appreciated indispensable component of this operation.

Does this take USCGC MACKINAW away from more important duties?

Not at all. This charitable activity actually takes place in conjunction with a scheduled ATON (Aids To Navigation) mission that brings MACKINAW to the southern most region of Lake Michigan to remove buoys for winter maintenance and replacement with “winter marks” to protect them from ice damage. Additionally, regular underway crew training and drills are conducted in preparation for the ship’s primary winter mission of keeping commerce moving through the ice-covered Great Lakes.

Can I get a Christmas tree from the Christmas Ship for myself or someone else who is deserving?

No. Deserving recipients are pre-selected by independent social service agencies who have experience and skill in providing support services to Chicago’s needy.

Can I buy a Christmas tree from the Christmas Ship?

No. The trees are distributed to deserving families without cost to the recipient. None are for sale.

How can I help less fortunate families have Christmas trees to enjoy with their children?

Your donation to Chicago’s Christmas Ship will help bring Christmas trees and other gifts of goods and social services to less fortunate families with children who would not otherwise be able to have a Christmas tree.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes. Donations are tax deductible under the provisions of IRS Reg. 501.c.3 and will have official receipts issued.

How much of my donation will actually be spent on Christmas trees?

100% of receipts from donations for trees are spent only for trees.

How are other expenses paid for?

Decorations, materials, and other expenses are paid by means of “in kind” donations of products and services or special donations for those purposes. No money donated for trees is ever spent to cover these expenses. The committee is comprised entirely of volunteers; there is no paid staff.

What kind of recognition is afforded for donations?

The following levels of recognition are available:

$5,000 - Listed as “Partner” and Company’s Logo used in Program;

$1000 - Listed as “Sponsor” in program and special gift;

$100 - Listed as “Tree Donor” in program;

$50 - Listed as “Contributor” on website;

other amount - Listed as "Other Gift” on website;

Any amount – Acknowledgement letter, Tax Deductible.

(Privileges listed for lower levels are also afforded to the higher categories)

Which ship is Chicago’s Christmas Ship?

From 2000-2005, the US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw (WAGB-83) had acted as Chicago’s Christmas Ship bringing Christmas trees to be distributed the disadvantaged families with children.

In June of 2006 this ship was decommissioned and the “new” US Coast Guard Cutter MACKINAW (WLBB-30) was commissioned and since then has carried on the tradition of its predecessor.

What kind of ship is USCGC Mackinaw?

The USCGC MACKINAW (WLBB-30) is an ultra modern 240 foot long, 3,500 ton multi-mission vessel. Not only does it have impressive icebreaking capability it also is a highly capable buoy tender with advanced pollution control assets and search and rescue duties.

The “old” USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB-83) was the largest US Coast Guard icebreaker to serve on the Great Lakes at 5,000 ton displacement. It was 290 feet long and had broken Great Lakes ice from 1944 through 2006.

Where is the Christmas Ship coming from?

The Christmas Ship (USCGC MACKINAW) will come from its homeport at Cheboygan, Michigan, making a trip of about 350 miles to get to Chicago.

When does the Christmas Ship come to Chicago?

The Christmas Ship (USCGC MACKINAW) arrives at the West end of Navy Pier the first Friday in December. There will be escort boats from the Coast Guard, Police and Fire Departments. Onshore there the official welcoming party will be waiting to meet the ship with a brass band and a crowd of well wishers. You are welcome to join in.

How can I get to see the Christmas Ship?

The festively decorated Christmas Ship (USCGC MACKINAW) is available for viewing the first Friday in December through the following Sunday from shore just South of the main entrance of Navy Pier.

Can I go on-board the Christmas Ship?

On Saturday, following the first Friday in December,  the Christmas Ship (USCGC MACKINAW) is scheduled for public tours from 1:30-5:00pm