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SWFL Wreaths Across America chapter needs wreath donations

One Southwest Florida community is worried they won’t be able to honor veterans properly this year. A site coordinator for a local chapter of Wreaths Across America is saying there is a shortage of not only wreath sponsors but also volunteers because of the pandemic.

Catalina Bakas comes from a family of veterans. Her brother, father, great-grandfather, and husband have all served our country.

“Every Veterans Day, every Memorial Day, every Fourth of July. We have the opportunity to show them how much we appreciate the sacrifices they have made,” Bakas said.

Also on that list is Christmas. But, in 2020, honoring veterans that have been laid to rest comes with additional hardships.

Holly Coleman is the location manager for Gulf Pines Memorial Park. “With the pandemic this year, we have had a really hard time,” Coleman said of their participation with Wreaths Across America.

Coleman wants to make sure all 1,500 veterans at Gulf Pines are honored with a wreath at their gravesite. But, with just five weeks to go before the wreath-laying ceremony, they are still short 150 wreaths.

“Our veterans’ groups had quit meeting and we just haven’t gotten a chance to get out and raise funds like we did,” said Coleman.

Now, veterans groups are slowly reuniting to raise money. The cemetery does have a surplus of wreaths from 2019. Still, they need helpers for the ceremony on December 19.

“We are looking to have some younger people who aren’t so susceptible to Covid come out and take power in our volunteering this year,” said Coleman.

To make sure they pay respect to and honor our veterans: “This will symbolize the unity that we can have in remembering honoring and teaching,” said Bakas.

Wreaths Across America Day is December 19. If you would like to donate, make checks payable to “Wreaths Across America” and make sure to add ‘FLGPMP’ to the memo section of the check. Wreaths are $15.

Send donations to Gulf Pines Memorial Park, 2401 Englewood Road, Englewood, FL 34223.

If you would like to volunteer for the day-of ceremony, they ask that you show up just before noon, since that’s when the ceremony starts. Everyone is being asked to follow social distancing guidelines, however, masks are not required.

If you have any questions, you can contact Holly Coleman at 941-474-2413.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Drew Hill
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