NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It was just a few weeks ago that organizers planning the wreath laying at local veterans' graves were scrambling to just cover Southview Cemetery.
But a last-minute deluge of donations has covered both the 500-wreath deficit at Southview and ensured a wreath on every veterans' grave in the city.
Among the donations has been $2,000 total through the local Elks Lodge, which has made a point of supporting veterans and other community efforts.
Elks member Anthony Sacco on Friday presented a $1,000 check for remembrance wreaths to Shelby O'Neill, one of the volunteers who also has family connections to the Elks.
The donation was made in memory of Michael Kirby, a longtime Elks member and former member of the National Guard, who died in November.
Sacco said Kirby had been an important part of a small group who meet regularly each weekend at the Elks. His friends had wanted to do something in his honor and supporting the wreath effort seemed a good way, he said.
"In Mike's memory, we got a $1,000 in private money," he said. "Elks care, Elks share."
O'Neill said the organization has raised more than enough to do all four North Adams cemeteries. The group had planned one large wreath each at Hill Side, St. Joseph's and Blackinton cemeteries. A host of volunteers will begin placing the wreaths at premarked graves sites immediately following the dedication ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at noon on Saturday, Dec. 15.
"It's just amazing how many people have shown up toward the end," O'Neill said.
The coordinators had been surprised when it turned out there were 700 or so more veterans buried in the city than the initial estimate. Southview Cemetery alone has 2,867 at last count. So, the group had changed tactics to focus on Southview alone but now, because of these latest donations, every grave will get a wreath.
"The total number of veterans' graves that will be receiving remembrance wreaths on December 15 is 3,218," said Donna Engels, a coordinator for the local Wreaths Across America effort, in an email Friday. "We have been busy this week marking the graves at Hill Side for those that will be receiving wreaths."
The national Wreaths Across America coordinates some 1,400 wreath-laying activities, including at Arlington National Cemetery. Each Dec. 15, a nationwide ceremony is held and wreaths are placed at veterans graves at participating communities. For every two wreaths purchased through the nonprofit, it donates a third wreath. The wreaths are being delivered to the City Yard for distribution.
The donations have come from individuals, local groups and businesses. Quadland's Flowers & Gifts has donated seven stands for the wreaths at the Veterans Memorial.
"We are so grateful to the people and businesses of the area that have helped us achieve our goal," Engels said.
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