Donations & Drivers Make Wreaths Across America Possibleby Jana Ritter - Published: 11/27/2013
Since 1992, the Worcesters have personally donated at least 5,000 wreaths each year from their family business, Worcester Wreath, in Harrington, Maine. Thousands of phone calls and e-mails poured in and so did unsolicited donations for wreaths. The Worcesters sent the money back. Laying the wreaths at Arlington, they explained, was a family project. But the requests kept coming from people who wanted to place wreaths in cemeteries nationwide.
The Worcesters responded by donating a set of wreaths to numerous cemeteries. Each set contained wreaths for each branch of the military and one for the POW/MIAs. In 2006 they decided to accept donations and began sending individual wreaths. In December 2006, tens of thousands of donated wreaths were sent to nearly 200 locations. All were delivered free by volunteers in the trucking industry. In 2007, the Worcesters created a non-profit organization, Wreaths Across America (WAA), with one simple mission: Remember, Honor, Teach. The organization now has 600,000 volunteers. “People understand that we have what we have because of these (military) families and their sacrifice,” she says.
“We could not do it without the trucking industry,” Worcester says.
Many of the largest corporate sponsors for Wreaths Across America are in the trucking industry. They include Wal-Mart, Qualcomm, Pottle’s Transportation and Randall-Reilly, which owns CCJ and Overdrive. “We are grateful for the opportunity to honor our veterans and for all the hard work and countless acts of service that make this event possible,” said Mike Reilly, chairman of Randall-Reilly in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Scott and Lorna Harris of Patton, Me., became involved in WAA four years ago. Scott Harris, an owner operator, hauls potatoes during the growing season in dedicated routes from Aroostook County, Maine, to Eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York.
On Dec. 7 he will again join the convoy of eight trucks from the Worcester Wreath plant in Harrington, Me., to Arlington. The convoy will stop at several locations along the way for WAA ceremonies that honor veterans. “Every stop is phenomenal experience,” he says. In contrast to his regular workday where most people have a negative attitude towards truckers, the entire week of the WAA convoy is a “good feeling,” he says.
Last year, one experience stood out above the rest. Harris was leading the convoy as it left the Massachusetts Turnpike and entered the village of Westfield, Mass. Thousands of people, from senior citizens to children, were lined up on both sides of the street waving flags.
Drivers who are participating in this rolling tribute are supposed to pull over on Dec. 14, known as Wreaths Across America Day, and remove the wreath from their grill and place it on a veteran’s headstone wherever they may be in the country. Truckers can still purchase the “Trucking’s Patriot Pair” of wreaths for $30 from www.truckloadofrespect.com.