The laying of wreaths at the National Cemetery is a month away, but to show their appreciation to veterans, schools across the county handed their donations to local veterans for the Wreaths for Heroes campaign.
At Simonsen Ninth Grade Center, retired Jefferson City Jays football coach Pete Adkins accepted a $180 donation from the school. Adkins' wife, Lorraine, is the organizer of Wreaths for Heroes, an organization that aims to provide an artificial wreath for each of the 1,500-plus graves at the National Cemetery.
The wreaths, designed to last three years, will be placed by groups of volunteers on Dec. 11, following a caravan from Busch's Florist to the cemetery. After the wreaths have been laid, a ceremony will be held honoring the veterans.
Since February, Lorraine Adkins and a core group of veterans and veterans supporters have been fundraising and spreading the word about the program. She was inspired after attending a Wreaths Across America event last December that had minimal attendance.
"I was just so shocked, so sad that there were only seven wreaths and even fewer people there," she said. "As I thought about it, I decided each grave needed a wreath, each needed to be decorated. The veterans there deserve it."
Schools and businesses from across the state have donated to the cause. Individuals have promised time, and businesses donated goods, services and storage areas.
"The support is amazing. This town is great, and this just proves what can happen in a very short time if we all come together," Lorraine Adkins said, smiling.
The program is designed to run in three-year intervals, and a maintenance fund has been established to cover repair or replacement costs each year.
Those wishing to purchase a wreath to place on a veteran's grave outside of the National Cemetery can purchase one for $10 from Busch's Florist.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to lay wreaths should contact Don Hentges, president of Jefferson City Veterans Council at 584-3326. To make a donation to Wreaths for Heroes, contact Lorraine Adkins at 635-5651.
"This is something we can all do - we can all take ownership in and feel proud of," she said. "It does not take much. It just takes each of us doing a little."
The wreaths will remain on the graves through Jan. 20.