Wreath drive for area vets' graves to begin

Helpings Hands of St. Marys will again partner with Wreaths Across America and area organizations to honor deceased veterans by placing wreaths ontheir graves during the holiday season, but this year, there are a few changes to the program that area residents should be aware of. Now in its fourth year locally, the program allows area residents to purchase wreaths to place on the graves of loved ones and even strangers in local cemeteries whohave served their country. Dolly Wehler of Helping Hands said due to some mix-ups in the past, this year only the wreaths ordered forspecific veterans will be placed on graves. "In the past, if you ordered a wreath for a specific veteran, we would try our best to place a wreath on that grave, but sometimes the wreath would beput on the wrong grave," Wehler said. "We understand how this can make you feel if you ordered for your special loved one and did not find a wreath onthe grave. So this year, only the wreaths ordered for a specific veteran will find a wreath on those graves. Wreaths ordered for forgotten veteransor any veteran will be placed in a specific area as a special display of veteran wreaths."Wreaths will be placed on veterans' graves in the St. Mary's Catholic and Protestant cemeteries in St. Marys. According to Wehler, more than 2,300 veterans are buried in the two St. Marys cemeteries. Helping Hands works with the Worchester Wreath Co. in Maine,which also adorns the graves at Arlington Cemetery each holiday season and generously transports the wreaths to Elk County at no charge.As in previous years, a special ceremony will be held at the St. Mary'sCatholic Cemetery at noon. Following the ceremony, members of Helping Hands, the St. Marys Servicemen's Burial Detail, and other volunteers will place the wreaths, where they will stay until the burial detail collects after the new year when the weather gets warmer. Wehler encouraged the public to attend the ceremony and see how area veterans are honored and remembered. "It is a great way to show our kids what the Wreath Across America program is all about, to "Teach, Honor and Remember," Wehler said. Wehler said forms for purchasing wreaths will be in the bulletins at the three Catholic churches in St. Marys this weekend, and are also available at the Methodist andPresbyterian churches and at a number of local businesses.  Residents may also send a check for $15.00 per wreath with the name of the veteran(s) beinghonored and who is making the donation to Wreaths Across America,  P.O. Box 364, St. Marys, PA 15857. Wehler said those who order a wreath and would like to place it on a loved one's grave are welcome to attend the ceremony and do so afterward. "Anyone who is unable to attend at that time and would like to place the wreath themselves may pick it up Friday, Dec. 9 between noon and 2 p.m. by the chapel at the St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery," Wehler said. She said that if people from area communities would like to order a wreath for a family veteran they can do so, and they can pick it up on Friday or Saturday and place it whenever they want. She encouraged people with questions about this process to call her at 781-7247.