Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine, was a 12 year old paper boy for the Bangor Daily News when he won a trip to Washington D.C. His first trip to our nation?s capital was one he would never forget, and Arlington National Cemetery made an especially indelible impression on him. This experience followed him throughout his life and successful career in business, reminding him that his good fortune was due, in large part, to the values of this nation and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their Country.
In 1992, Worcester Wreath found themselves with a surplus of wreaths nearing the end of the holiday season. Remembering his boyhood experience at Arlington, Worcester realized he had an opportunity to honor our country's Veterans. With the help of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, arrangements were made for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington in one of the older sections of the cemetery, a section which had been receiving fewer visitors with each passing year.
As plans were underway, a number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help. James Prout, owner of local trucking company Blue Bird Ranch, Inc., generously provided transportation all the way to Virginia. Volunteers from the local American Legion and VFW Posts gathered with members of the community to decorate each wreath with traditional red, hand-tied bows. Members of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C. helped to organize the wreath-laying, which included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet. Suddenly, the project received national attention. Thousands of requests poured in from all over the country from people wanting to help with Arlington, to emulate the Arlington project at their National and State cemeteries, or to simply share their stories and thank Morrill Worcester for honoring our nation's heroes.
Unable to donate thousands of wreaths to each state, Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. The Patriot Guard Riders volunteered as escort for the wreaths going to Arlington. This began the annual "Veterans Honor Parade" that travels the east coast in early December.
The annual trip to Arlington and the groups of volunteers eager to participate in Worcester?s simple wreath-laying event grew each year until it became clear the desire to remember and honor our country"s fallen heroes was bigger than Arlington, and bigger than this one company.
In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans, and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual Christmas wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, a non profit 501-c3 organization, to continue and expand this effort, and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same. The mission of the group is simple:
Remember. Honor. Teach.
Please note: many people have expressed a desire to donate to this cause. Worcester Wreath Company is committed to continue their Arlington Wreath Project, now expanded by the Wreaths Across America campaign. Worcester Wreath cannot and will not accept any donations. Those who are interested however, may support by sending donations to:
PO Box 249
Columbia Falls, ME 04623
"I started Worcester Wreath Co. in 1971. That first year I sold 500 wreaths. Over the past 37 years with the help from my family, our business has grown to sales of over 500,000 wreaths.
I happen to think this incredible growth could only be accomplished in America because of the freedoms we all enjoy.
Of course, our freedoms did not come without a tremendous cost and sacrifice. Over the past 231 years, nearly 1,000,000 Americans, men and women, have given the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. Millions more gave years of their lives in the military services and were lucky enough to come home safely.
I know our wreaths placed on the veteran's graves each year is a very small gesture.
I only wish we could do more."
Morrill Worcester, Founder