During the Yuletide season, it’s nice to applaud folks who act like Santa’s helpers at other times of the year.

We need to hear about these big-hearted givers not just because their good deeds are mostly unsung... but because their stories are an antidote to the commercialism that turns this season of giving into one big “shop-ortunity” (to quote that ubiquitous Marshall’s ad that makes me want to hurl a shoe at the TV).

So here’s a shout-out to the good folks at the

founded just last year

(whom you'll remember from

), an organization that plants orchards around the city – in community gardens, school yards and other spaces in low-income neighborhoods.

And here’s a special thank you to

who personally godfathered POP’s eleventh orchard, at

In October, his $5,000 gift financed, among other things,

located just off 33rd and Dauphin.

The wonderful thing about the organic orchard is that it will be maintained and harvested by the community, including schoolkids, who’ll be trained by the folks at the

(another unsung band of elves!).

"I love this idea of the city having ‘edible landscapes,'" says Bruce, founder of the

(and one of my bosses when I worked there eons ago). "The concept is really catching on. I think it’s helping city people think about new ways of living sustainably."

Bruce wants to make sure I mention that the Woodford project wouldn't have happened without the cooperation of the

which owns Woodford, and the

which operates the mansion.

Fair enough. But there'd be nothing to cooperate for if Bruce hadn't so generously supported the project in the first place.

So here’s a candy cane and a big thank you to Bruce Schimmel, for being an Environmental Elf to the city.