Three Supervisor of Elections Employees Launch Wreaths Across America Program in Indian River County

Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, wreath-laying ceremonies are conducted at more than 4,000+ locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. The mission of the Wreaths Across America organization is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and to teach our children the value of freedom. 

This initiative pays tribute to the sacrifices made by our servicemen and  women by adorning their final resting places with festive wreaths. The ceremony  includes remarks from the local organizers, along with a solemn wreath-laying  ceremony to commemorate the dedication and service of those who served our  country 

In 2017, when Joe and Sue Crowley moved to Vero Beach from  Massachusetts, they wanted to take part in our local National Wreaths Across  America Day. They quickly learned this program did not exist in our county. 

In 2018, Joe and Sue approached the local veterans’ agent seeking to launch  the Wreaths Across America program in Indian River County. They were told that  they were welcome to organize the event, but that they were pretty much on their  own to see the program through.  

Joe and Sue, both retired firefighters, accepted the challenge. A friend, Rick  Lewis, overheard the couple’s discussion about their plans to spearhead the  program in the county and Rick said, “I’m in!”. Rick is a retired City of Vero Beach  employee and is very involved in local veteran organizations. With Rick’s  connections, the trio was able to form a small committee and the work began. 

Wreaths Across America Location Coordinators work throughout the year  with cemetery contacts and local governments to organize and promote the  ceremony, coordinate wreath delivery and manage the placement of wreaths. In  addition to location coordinators, the assistance of community members, local  businesses and civic groups and organizations are relied upon to place wreaths on  the day of the event. 

Not only is the logistics of the program a daunting task, but funds must be  raised to purchase the wreaths. The first year the trio raised enough money to  cover military wreaths on two-thirds at Crestlawn Cemetery and all of Veterans  Memorial Island. During the wreath ceremony on Memorial Island, the trio  committed to all in attendance that they would cover all veterans’ graves at  Crestlawn Cemetery the following year.  

In 2019, in addition to place wreaths at Crestlawn Cemetery and Veterans  Memorial Island, the trio decided to expand north to cover Sebastian Municipal  Cemetery. Their five- year goal was to raise enough money to place a wreath on  every Veteran’s grave in the county. Even through the 2020 Pandemic, the trio  achieved their fund raising goals to continue the program. 

Since 2021, this dynamic trip of individuals have raised enough funds to  honor every veteran buried in Indian River County. Even the little known Oslo  Cemetery on Old Dixie Highway receives wreaths. This county has been extremely  generous and online donations appear weekly. They raise enough money for  nearly 3000 wreaths each year, which translates to nearly $30,000.

Upon retirement from the Ludlow Fire Department in Massachusetts, Joe and  Sue continued their role as civil servants by serving at the Elections Office. The  couple volunteered to serve as poll workers. Sue serves as a Clerk on Election Day  and has assisted the Vote-By-Mail Department. Joe began his service at the  Elections Office as a Poll Deputy and then was recruited to work in the warehouse  as the Logistics and Equipment Manager. Rick Lewis serves as a Field Technician.  Field Technicians receive specialized training to troubleshoot and provide  assistance with equipment at the polling place. 

It takes special people to coordinate and implement the Wreaths Across  America program. Volunteers and donors are encouraged to participate in this  heartfelt initiative. To make a donation visit WreathersAcrossAmericaa.org\fl0500  or to get involved email wreathsirc@gmail.com.

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