“We have wanted to do this for some time,” says Rob Worcester, transportation and logistics coordinator for Wreaths Across America. He’s talking about what you see in the picture above, the first time the nonprofit has taken their new exhibit trailer on the road to a trucking show. The Chevrolet company, one among many Wreaths Across America sponsors, made it possible by donating the powered equipment and exhibit trailer, inside which Worcester, his wife Renee and crew have built a display and mini-theater to spread the word about Wreaths’ mission to honor the fallen, supporting local communities all around the nation in the process.
The organization, which facilitates the placement of wreaths around the Christmas season over military veterans’ graves in cemeteries around the country, last year placed more than 1.5 million wreaths. As a part of that through the years, the organization has facilitated $7 million going directly into local organizations around the nation, too, Rob’s wife and a partner in the nonprofit, Renee Worcester, emphasizes.
Donated transportation by the company’ Honor Fleet of carriers and drivers, last year, numbered more than 500 loads hauled by 240 different carriers, says Rob. Participating drivers have been a huge part of Wreaths’ growth since forming as a nonprofit in more than 10 years ago now. “A lot of that growth has been very grassroots, as they take this back into their communities.” This year, he estimates, more than 120 more loads are likely to be the result of Wreaths’ outreach push and continued organic growth.
Wreaths Across America began as the surplus wreath donation project from the Maine-based family wreath business of Morrill Worcester, Rob’s father, in 1992, when “we had some wreaths we couldn’t sell,” Rob says. Morrill worked with officials in Washington, D.C., to gain necessary permissions to donate them and have them placed on soldiers’ graves in Arlington National Cemetery, which had made a big impression on him as a boy.
The “first truck,” donated to facilitate that delivery, was from the Bluebird Ranch company of Jonesboro, Me., and it was “just one load,” Worcester says.
The Worcesters’ program proceeded in subsequent years focused only on the Arlington cemetery until, in 2005, a photo of the placed wreaths in Arlington taken by a Pentagon photographer essentially went viral. To scale up the operation, the nonprofit was then formed and the mission of the original operation as Morrill envisioned continues — honoring the fallen and those who serve.
Wreaths’ fairly newly redesigned website makes getting involved to organize wreath placement in local communities, or to sponsor a wreath yourself, fairly simple to do, and in the display trailer at MATS, booth No. 72217 in the pavilion area, terminals are provided for show attendees to interact there.