Organizing the first Wreaths Across America celebration in Quarryville was a learning experience, Kristi Sprout said last week.
And the lessons were positive.
"One good thing I learned is that people pulled it through when they needed to. The community really got behind this," she said. "At the last minute, there were things that we needed and we didn't plan for and people stepped up and made it happen."
That included arranging tents and canopies to protect volunteers and sound equipment when the day turned cold and rainy.
"I was very surprised," she said. "I didn't know what to expect when they called for rain. I was overwhelmed by how the community stepped up to make it happen in miserable weather."
Members of the Solanco High School football team turned out to help unload the donated tractor trailer. Neighbors brought golf carts and wagons to distribute the wreaths along the cemetery's roads. And, on Saturday, December 15, 2018, about 200 volunteers wearing parkas and raincoats and carrying umbrellas placed 477 wreaths on the graves of veterans buried in the Quarryville Cemetery.
That was the first time the cemetery was included in the nationwide program.
Wreaths Across America got its start in December, 1992, when wreath maker Morrill Worcester had 5,000 extra wreaths and donated them to Arlington National Cemetery.
The annual project is now run by a nonprofit. In 2017, it provided 1.5 million wreaths that were placed in 1,433 locations in all 50 states, at sea, and abroad.
It came to the Southern End when Fred Williams decided to organize a local event at the Mt. Eden Lutheran Cemetery in 2010.
A visit to that event in 2017 led Sprout to organize a similar program for Quarryville in 2018.
The community's support for the Quarryville event started well before the day the wreaths were placed.
Last summer, Sprout began collecting donations to buy the wreaths at $15 each. By late June, 2018, she had enough money to buy 41 of the 477 she needed. She had to come up with more than $6,000 by early November.
She exceeded that amount.
"We went over the goal by [enough money for an additional] 230 wreaths," she said last week. That money has been credited for this year's purchase.
This year, she expects to need about 500 wreaths. The higher number will allow the volunteers to include veterans buried in the cemetery since last December.
"When the need's here, this community really steps up," Sprout said.
People who want to help pay for this year's wreaths can send checks for $15 per wreath to Sprout at 99 Stewart Run Rd., Quarryville. Online donations may be made to wreathsacrossamerica.org.
"If you make an online payment, be sure to choose the Quarryville Cemetery," Sprout said.
This year's ceremony will be held at the cemetery, Park Ave. at Robert Fulton Highway, at noon on Saturday, December 14.
"We always need volunteers. People don't need to pre-register for this. Just show up," she said.