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Totally East Texas: Thanksgiving Tree dropping its leaves, one act of kindness at a time

We introduce our new series — "Totally East Texas" from the Texas Forestry Museum where a holiday tree lets you practice kindness in the community as a family.

LUFKIN, Texas — We begin a new series of stories that are "Totally East Texas". People in East Texas are so giving of their time, their talents and when needed, donating their money to worthy causes.

There is a tree in Lufkin and it's not for celebrating Christmas but Thanksgiving, and it's "Totally East Texas".

The Texas Forestry Museum has deep roots in East Texas. It opened its doors in 1976 with the help of the Kiwanis Club and the Texas Forestry Association as a way to celebrate the history of our Texas forests and the role the industry plays in our everyday lives.

Kaitlyn Wieseman, who serves as education coordinator for the museum, says you can find history about Texas sawmill towns there and a logging train outside, just to name a few attractions.

"Then we also have inside things about the paper industry with the Southland Paper Mill that was here in Lufkin and then also we have our children's swing that we try to focus on interactive and hands-on so a little something for everyone," Texas Forestry Museum Education Coordinator Kaitlyn Wieseman said.

The Texas Forestry Museum in itself is "Totally East Texas", but nestled inside this East Texas treasure, which is free to visit by the way, is the Thanksgiving Tree. "So during this time of the year, we always thought, you know, an act of kindness or being thankful for something was something we wanted to provide it," Wieseman said. "So we came up with the idea for the Thanksgiving Tree and all the leaves are actually acts of kindness that someone could come pick off the tree."

Anyone can help make the leaves fall off for winter simply by picking a random act of kindness. "We have sent a kind text to three people or you can have don't complain for one day, draw a picture for a nurse's station and spend time with your kids, which that should be super easy for some and then donate dog or cat food to a shelter. It's just really different array of things that you could do," Wieseman said.

The Thanksgiving Tree can help people spread holiday cheer at The Texas Forestry Museum and around East Texas. 

The Brantner family did both. "Look, this one says clean up the train table," said Jill Brantner, mom of three. "You want to clean up the train table?"

Jill brought her boys, Elliott and Jay Henry to The Texas Forestry Museum for a lesson on Thanksgiving. "This time of year, I want my kids to know what it means to be thankful for others and show kindness to others and care for them and so, the museum makes it easy," Brantner said. 

This is the second year for the Thanksgiving Tree and it's now becoming a family tradition for the Brantners. They all participated, including daughter Audree, since one of the boys chose a leaf dedicated to spending time with your parents. Jill believes it's never too early to teach kids the importance of giving to others. "It's up to me to teach them to love other people, so even when they're little, I have to teach them that, so it's not harder to do when they're older."

The Texas Forestry Museum may be in Lufkin, but you don't have to live there to spread a little kindness this season. This tree can also serve as inspiration for acts of kindness all across East Texas.

The Brantner boys left the museum better than when they first arrived by cleaning up the train exhibit and spreading a little kindness to a new friend.

While the autumn leaves quietly fall outside, the leaves from this Thanksgiving Tree are making a strong impact — one act of kindness at a time.

If you grab a leaf from the tree or are inspired to create your own, make sure to capture your act of kindness and share with the hashtags — #TexasForestryMuseum and #ThanksgivingTree. 

Also, if you have a story that's "Totally East Texas", call us at 903-600-3600 or email Dana Hughey at dhughey@cbs19.tv.