The COVID-19 pandemic has created financial hardship for many who would otherwise seek out opportunities to strengthen the missions of the nonprofits serving our region, especially during the holiday season. Wreaths Across America is one organization that has faced new challenges this year in its mission to honor our nation’s heroes by providing donated wreaths for the headstones of the veterans laid to rest throughout our national cemeteries.
Locally, Wreaths Across America sought 16,200 donated wreaths for graves at Sarasota National Cemetery through Dec. 1. The opportunity to strengthen the impact of the organization’s efforts toward that goal, along with The Patterson Foundation’s commitment to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans and military families, led to The Patterson Foundation making a one-time $50,000 gift to Wreaths Across America at Sarasota National Cemetery for the 2020 event.
The Patterson Foundation’s gift will be combined with contributions from other donors toward the 16,200 wreath goal, with any funds above that goal carrying over to the 2021 iteration of Wreaths Across America at Sarasota National Cemetery.
Each year, Wreaths Across America brings together people at national cemeteries throughout all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and on foreign soil for a day to remember our veterans, honor those who serve, and teach the value of freedom. During Wreaths Across America ceremonies, volunteers of all ages place donated remembrance wreaths at veteran headstones and gravesites.
“The Patterson Foundation has worked in numerous ways throughout the year to strengthen people, organizations, and communities coping with the challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation. “Wreaths Across America presents an appropriate way to extend that work in honor of our region’s former, current, and future service members eligible for a dignified burial at Sarasota National Cemetery. The Patterson Foundation has a long history of honoring their sacrifices and has a vested interest in strengthening this annual ceremony that they and their loved ones hold dear.”
Sarasota National Cemetery is home to Patriot Plaza, a 2,800-seat ceremonial amphitheater designed to honor veterans, inspire patriotism, and embrace freedom. The Patterson Foundation funded the $12 million design and construction of Patriot Plaza as a gift to the nation through a partnership with the National Cemetery Administration — the first collaboration between private philanthropy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on an enhancement of this magnitude at a national cemetery.
Wreaths Across America at Sarasota National Cemetery will take place this year with several modifications to maintain a safe and successful effort. The event, which typically occurs on a single day, will now stretch from Dec. 17 to Dec. 19. All volunteers must register in advance to participate, and gloves, masks, and social distancing will be required per the National Cemetery Administration’s COVID-19 guidelines. A community ceremony typically held at Patriot Plaza to kick off the event will now take place virtually on Dec. 19.
Read more about The Patterson Foundation’s efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19 in our region and beyond. To learn about Wreaths Across America at Sarasota National Cemetery and opportunities to volunteer for this year’s effort, visit www.sarasotawreaths.com.