Stafford Leader

‘Wreaths Across America’ Campaign Comes to Southern Ocean County

By Eric Englund | Oct 11, 2019
Supplied Photo Betty Garrison

Stafford Township — A Stafford Township woman is seeking community support for a project in which wreaths would be laid at veterans’ grave sites in December. Betty Garrison recently joined a group called Wreaths Across America, which coordinates wreath­-laying ceremonies at more than 1,600 locations across the U.S., at sea and abroad. The group is the same organization that lays the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.

“On Dec. 14, I hope to lay 1,000 wreaths on veterans’ graves at five local cemeteries – Greenwood (Cedar Run), St Mary’s and the Old Baptist Church, Methodist church and West Creek cemeteries,” said Garrison.

But to accomplish this, Garrison said she will have to raise $15,000, since the wreaths individually cost $15. On Oct. 6, she kicked off the fundraising with a pancake breakfast at the Stafford Township Firehouse.

“I had heard about Wreaths Across America during over Memorial Day weekend,” Garrison said. “It intrigued me so I wanted to be a part of this organization. For now, I’m looking for sponsors.”

According to the organization’s website, Wreaths Across America was an outgrowth of Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. of Harrington, Maine. As a youngster, he was a paperboy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C.

“His first trip to our nation’s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him,” the site says. “This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”

In 1992, Worcester Wreath had a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the aid of then-Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery that had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.

As plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch Inc., provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet,” the site says. “Suddenly, the project received national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their national and state cemeteries, or to simply share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation’s heroes.”

For information, email Garrison at bettywaa2019@gmail.com. To donate, log onto wreathsacrossamerica.org.

— Eric Englund

ericenglund@thesandpaper.net

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