WELLSBORO AND BLOSSBURG — Two communities gathered beneath cold, drenching rain to honor veterans.
In the Wellsboro Cemetery and the Arbon Cemetery in Blossburg, residents of all ages met to place wreaths and observe a moment of silence this past Saturday as each community held its first Wreaths Across America ceremony.
The Blossburg State Coal Festival organized the event in that community, while the Grand Canyon FFA at the Wellsboro High School planned the second.
“We did the Moving Wall (in Blossburg) a couple years ago and we loved seeing the community come together to show appreciation for the veterans and we wanted to continue that,” said organizer Annie Brooks.
After volunteering at another Wreaths Across America ceremony, the Coal Festival committee decided to bring it to Blossburg.
“One of the goals as a committee is to give back to the community, whether it’s a monetary donation, volunteering our time at other organization’s events or bringing new programs to the community,” she said.
The events opened with placing seven ceremonial wreaths — Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIA — followed by the distribution of the wreaths.
At Wellsboro, Cub and Boy Scouts from Wellsboro and Elkland joined the adults to lay wreaths on gravestones. Scout leader Kevin Witmer attended with sons Eben, Cub Scout Pack 32, and Uriah, Boy Scout Troop 24. They partnered with Elkland Cub Scout Pack 2044.
“I just came out here because I’m in Scouts and the Scout Law says to do a good turn daily,” said Uriah, shrugging off the cold and rain as a “minor sacrifice.”
It took volunteers in Wellsboro about 30 minutes to place 600 wreaths.
Blossburg raises more than $6,000 to place 425 wreaths on headstones of fallen service members at St. Mary’s, St. Andrews and Arbon cemeteries. Costy’s Energy Service came up with the final donation when organizers found themselves 56 wreaths short, said Annie Brooks.
The FFA raised about 75 sponsored wreaths, but placed more than 600 wreaths throughout the cemetery.
The Wellsboro event grew out of an annual holiday greens sale by the FFA chapter.
“We wanted to incorporate a more community-based service project so we found the Wreaths Across America company and we decided to partner with them to honor those fallen heroes in our local cemetery,” said FFA member Nina Coolidge.
Blossburg moved its opening ceremony inside once the weather forecast turned to rain. Originally, the service was to be held at the Veterans Memorial on Riverside Plaza.
The organizations were pleased by the turnout under less-than-auspicious conditions.
“Seeing as it was our first time holding the event and it was not the most ideal weather, but there was a great number of people that I believe showed up to help us,” said Coolidge. “This is showing the many people who have served in the military and they have family members who have served in it. And it is remembering and honoring those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to our community and our country and showing that they may be gone but they are not forgotten.
Volunteers also turned out to place all the wreaths in less than an hour at all three cemeteries in Blossburg.
“Honestly, I was worried about how many volunteers we would have but people just kept coming. Someone thought we had close to 80 volunteers,” said Brooks.
The Mountain Laurel Girl Scouts placed wreaths at St. Mary’s Cemetery while the Mansfield University men’s and women’s basketball covered St. Andrew’s Cemetery.
Any more information or sponsor, contact Grand Canyon FFA, Blossburg State Coal Festival or go to www.wreathsacrossamerca.org for more information or to sponsor a wreath for next year.