Last year the Deer Park Methodist Cemetery in Westminster became the first Carroll County cemetery to take part in the nationwide tradition that is Wreaths Across America Day.
This year, eight more cemeteries, including the historic Ellsworth Cemetery, are joining in the tradition, which celebrates veterans by placing wreaths on their graves at the same time, on the same day each December.
And that means instead of the 140 wreath donations the Deer Park Cemetery received in 2017, there will be demand for almost 1,000.
“Last year I think we had around 250 people come to lay the wreaths,” said Deer Park Cemetery Board of Trustees President Mel Blizzard. “This year we are looking for additional people.
“Not only do we lay the wreaths, we do a whole cemetery like they do at Arlington.”
It was the annual Arlington Cemetery ceremony that sparked the idea to spread the tradition to other parts of the country so Americans everywhere can participate.
Morrill Worcester, owner of the Harrington, Maine-based Worcester Wreath Company, saw the Arlington ceremony for the first time when he was a 12-year-old paper boy. When he built his company, Worcester decided to begin donating wreaths, and founded Wreaths Across America in 2007 to fulfill a simple mission: remember, honor and teach.
“There’s now 1,500 cemeteries across the country that participate in this program,” said Blizzard.
For the Deer Park Methodist Cemetery service, Blizzard said Wreaths Across America donated seven wreaths to represent each branch of the armed forces and those missing in action. Members of the community donated 140 wreaths.
They have already begun accepting donations for this year’s wreaths, which can be purchased for $15 each through the Wreaths Across America website by clicking on “Find a Specific Location” at the center of the page.
“We are going to do that every year to honor our veterans,” said Blizzard. “Not only do we honor our veterans, it’s three things our program consists: of remembering those who have fallen, honoring the people that serve, and teaching our children the value of freedom.”
The ceremony at Deer Park Methodist Cemetery will take place at noon on Dec. 15.
After learning about Blizzard’s work, Knights of Columbus member Dan Kloss wanted to get historic Ellsworth Cemetery on board — an African-American cemetery with veterans interred from as far back as the Civil War.
“We’re trying to draw more attention to the cemetery because it’s been neglected for years,” said Kloss Tuesday afternoon. “The Knights of Columbus and Community Foundation of Carroll County have been trying to restore it.”
The cemetery’s application through Wreaths of America is still pending, but Kloss expects to be accepted into the program and hold a Wreaths Across America ceremony this year at 11 a.m. on Dec. 15.
“There are supposed to be 26 veterans from the Civil War to the Vietnam era,” Kloss said.
Anyone interested in sponsoring wreaths can make donations through the Community Foundation of Carroll County online until the cemetery is accepted and given a web page through Wreaths of America.
“It’s very important to make that cemetery known,” said Kloss. “Many people didn’t even know the cemetery existed before [the] Memorial Day [ceremony this year].”
Donations can be delivered to the Community Foundation of Carroll County at 255 Clifton Blvd, Suite 313, Westminster, and the organization can be reached by phone for more information about donating or volunteer opportunities at: 410-876-5505.
Babylon Vault Company
And like a smile, like wildfire, the fever to participate in Wreaths Across America has spread to other cemeteries in Carroll.
Donna Babylon of the the New Windsor Babylon Vault Company — an 88-year-old burial vault manufacturing company — decided to become an organizer for ceremonies across Carroll County when Blizzard approached her in hopes to rent a tent for the Deer Park Methodist Cemetery Service.
“We put up tents and chairs for grave site ceremonies,” she said Wednesday. “I told him, ‘No, we will donate it.’ ”
In addition to donating the equipment, she encouraged seven different cemeteries to apply to become a Wreaths Across America ceremony site, all of which are in varying states of application.
The cemeteries recruited by Babylon include the Meadow Branch and Mt. Joy cemeteries in Westminster; the St. Luke’s [Winter’s], St. James [formerly known as Strawbridge] and Pipe Creek cemeteries in New Windsor; St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery in Union Bridge and Church of God Cemetery in Uniontown.
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To cover all the veteran graves at the cemeteries, Babylon needs to collect 850 wreaths.
“There are more than 400 veterans graves in one cemetery alone,” she said.
She also said because she has an extensive military history in her family that she’s taking on this act of public outreach for them, her father in particular.
And for anyone related to a veteran at any of the participating cemeteries, Babylon said they are entitled through Wreaths Across America to place the wreath on their family member’s grave.
“With Carroll County there's a lot of people who were born and raised here that are still here,” she said, “so this will be really special for them.”
In addition to the number of wreaths required to participate in the annual ceremony, Babylon is also seeking volunteers.
Until the cemeteries recruited by Babylon are added to the Wreaths Across America database, anyone interested in donating wreaths can drop them off at the Babylon Vault Company, located at 925 Wakefield Valley Road, New Windsor, and call 410-848-0393 for more information about wreaths and volunteer opportunities as Wreaths Across America Day approaches.