TSA officers save holiday tradition at Pennsylvania airport by sponsoring military tree

Monday, January 3, 2022
Avizof photo

A holiday tradition for 25 years, Lehigh Valley International Airport’s (ABE) Festival of Trees spreads seasonal good cheer by showcasing live trees donated by local merchants and decorated by school children.

One of the annual highlights is a military tree, decorated with candy canes and letters written by children thanking the military for their service. This year, when plans fell through for the designated school to decorate the patriotic tree, the honor was offered to Team ABE.

Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Customer Experience Manager Paula Bonstein knew just who to call.

Military tree photo
The military tree, a sweet holiday tradition at Lehigh Valley International Airport, made possible by TSA ABE. (Photo courtesy TSA ABE)

“This is the reason I could not let our military tree go undecorated,” said ABE TSA Manager Lori Avizof as she proudly shared a photo of her and her two active duty sons. “I know personally how they feel when they see it at our airport.”

Made possible by donations from Avizof, the TSA 2021 entry – visible to passengers in the screening and exit lanes  – featured red, white and blue ornaments and U.S. and armed forces flags.

Military trees photo
A favorite entry in the Holiday Festival of Trees at ABE, the military tree offers a sweet treat and a heartfelt message to military community. (Screenshot courtesy of Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority)

A simple but hugely heartfelt thank you note was nestled in the branches, offering candy canes to sweeten the holiday travel of active service members and veterans.

Coming from a military family, Avizof advocates for service members at every turn. When nearby Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport’s new terminal unveiled a comfortable military room for service members, she supported the same amenity for ABE.

“All of my family — both grandfathers, all uncles and my sons — served,” said Avizof proudly. “When the time came, I made a donation to the cause under my family names.”

Thanks to hers and many more donations, including from Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., an organization that accepts Combined Federal Campaign donations, the ABE military room became reality.

Small in size, the airport authority likes to remind locals that Lehigh is their neighborhood airport. “This airport is always looking for ways to make passengers feel good and welcomed,” said Avizof, who enjoys the close collaboration with stakeholders and passengers.

“The strong relationship between ABE and TSA goes beyond serving the Lehigh Valley community,” said Colin Riccobon, ABE Director of Public and Government Relations. “Supporting this year’s military appreciation tree is further evidence that we’re a family. Both organizations realize the importance of recognizing current military service members, veterans and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. The airport is thankful TSA stepped up to help this tradition continue.”

By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs