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WAA had first-time participation by several cemeteries in the area

Bloomingdale Mayor Dave Gaffney, right, was master of ceremonies at Bloomingdale Cemetery. -- Contributed

UNIONPORT — While there were a number of area cemeteries among the locations for Wreaths Across America ceremonies, five cemeteries in Wayne Township and one in Salem Township were first-time participants on Dec. 19.

“Our communities had a beautiful day with a lot of volunteers,” commented Le’Ann Gibbons, worthy matron of Unionport Chapter No. 360 Order of the Eastern Star, who coordinated the effort to have several cemeteries registered as WAA locations and ceremonies conducted there.

“This year we were asked to become more involved in our communities,” Gibbons said of how the OES got involved in the effort that began earlier this year. “As incoming worthy matron, I asked the chapter if I could start my project early. I had picked Wreaths Across America and wanted to start with three wreaths in the cemetery at Unionport. That cemetery is where our lodge is located,” she said.

Gibbons ended up registering six cemeteries with Wreaths Across America, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission — Remember, Honor, Teach — is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.

The Jefferson County cemeteries new to participating were Wayne Township cemeteries Pine Run, Unionport, Bloomingdale, Shaffer Cemetery in McIntyre and Mount Moriah Cemetery. East Springfield Cemetery in East Springfield also was registered.

The six cemeteries have a total of 513 veterans’ graves, according to Gibbons, who noted the OES chapter was a sponsoring fundraising chapter. She is the area’s coordinator for these and will return in that capacity for the 2021 observance “with lots of help. We are registering more cemeteries also.”

Because the OES chapter is a sponsoring fundraising chapter, that meant the chapter would receive $5 back from each wreath sold for another fundraiser,” she said.

Local businesses were approached for donations and private donations also were received, according to Gibbons. “On Nov. 13, we purchased 534 wreaths — 513 for the veterans in our six cemeteries. Additionally families with veterans in other cemeteries added to our order and fundraising opportunity.”

“With the money we will be receiving back it will be divided between four projects,” Gibbons continued. The beneficiaries are “the Fisher House in Oakland, Pa., a place for families with veterans in the hospital to stay, free of charge, while their veteran is hospitalized. Secondly, One’s Too Many, a hotline for suicidal veterans. Third, our worthy grand patron’s project, Vans for the Shriner Hospital (upkeep), and lastly, the Benevolence Fund for Ohio Eastern Star.”

“I would again like to thank all that made this project such a huge success,” Gibbons said.

Wreaths are $15 each and a special wreath matching campaign is under way through Friday.

All wreaths sponsored through a registered WAA location or sponsorship group will be matched by headquarters for placement this Demember.

For information, contact Gibbons at (740) 461-4111.

The website is www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

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