Local volunteers are preparing to hold a ceremony and place wreaths on veterans’ graves at the Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery, at 410 Ebenezer Road, on Dec. 17, to honor veterans as part of the Wreaths Across America campaign.

“This is my fourth year doing Wreaths Across America at Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery in North Lebanon Township,” said organizer Bonnie L. Loy. “Prior to that, I would help sell the wreaths for Indiantown Gap and also help place the wreaths. But when I saw they had a lot of help and they had corporate donors besides the groups that help, I thought I’d like to see something happen in our own community.”

Loy, who was born and raised in Ebenezer and now lives in the Myerstown area, continued, “I went to three different groups, trying to get them on board with it. … The third group finally said that they would love to help. And that’s how I ended up being the leader. They would do it if I started it and oversaw the program.”

Read More: By localizing it, Bonnie Loy has taken Wreaths Across America to the next level

When asked for the status on fundraising for this year’s wreaths, Loy said, “It is [behind target], I mean, and I can understand that. There are so many folks that are really struggling … because of food or even fuel for their heating for the winter or their fuel, their gas to get back and forth to work. And I’m seeing less folks donate amounts, or they’ve donated smaller amounts because of the situation they’re in with their budget.

“And I’ve talked with the lady that oversees the national cemetery with the wreaths there, and she has told me she is way behind with her numbers also.”

There are 1,192 graves at Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery identified as veterans’ graves. Loy has raised money for 592 wreaths and needs money for 600 more in order to reach the cemetery’s goal.

“Anyone that has any ideas about fundraising, I’d love to meet them, talk with them, and help them do a fundraiser for the Wreaths Across America at the Covenant Greenwood Cemetery. I’d love that,” she said. “I do some fundraising all year long, but for the most part, … I only have one or two people that actually help me through the year to raise funds.”

Loy continued to discuss another local cemetery involved with Wreaths Across America.

“This will be the first year for the cemetery in Richland, Pennsylvania. … They’re going to be placing wreaths at their cemetery,” Loy said. “So, I’m happy about that because my goal when I started this was to honor all veterans and, by branching out to other cemeteries and helping other groups get started, hopefully, one day, all the veterans in Lebanon County will have a wreath placed at the holiday time.”

The Richland Cemetery, at 105 East New St., has a separate wreath count, and the site leaders, Gary Althouse and Charlotte Peffley, have already reached their fundraising goal.

Loy then shifted her focus back to the Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery.

“Even though it’s Wreaths Across America, and we’re very active with that, small group that we are, we try to watch over the flags in the cemetery. We watch over the wreaths. We try to replace the markers [or emblems] if they’re broken or they disappear,” she said.

During their time in the Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery for Wreaths Across America, the group discovered that a veteran’s grave never had a tombstone installed since their burial in 1991. The group contacted the veteran’s family members, asked for their permission, and then contacted Veterans Affairs, documented the veteran’s birth date, death date, and time in the service. Since the veteran qualified, the group received a tombstone and installed it on the veteran’s grave.

The group observed about five additional veterans’ graves in the cemetery without tombstones and plan to complete the same process for them.

Loy also explained that the flags in the cemeteries are purchased by Lebanon County and placed on veterans’ graves in May by members of the VFW and various cemetery committees.

“When we take the wreaths off in the spring, I like to recycle as much as I can, or repurpose, or reuse. And that comes about through my DAR connection,” Loy said. “And instead of just placing the used wreaths in a receptacle … we actually take them apart. And the greens we’ve been giving to various goat farmers anywhere in Lebanon County if we can locate them. And the metal we recycle at the salvage yards.”

A goat from a Lebanon County goat farm eating greens from a wreath. (Photo provided by Bonnie L. Loy)

If interested, there are several ways to get involved. You can donate to Wreaths Across America for the Covenant Greenwood Ebenezer Cemetery at www.wreathsacrossAmerica.org/PA0449 using cemetery code: PACGEC. You can also donate by contacting Bonnie L. Loy at 717-269-9260. Wreaths are $15 each.

Or you can volunteer.

“We are always looking for volunteers to place the wreaths. Also, volunteers to help with the program. Volunteers to help remove the wreaths in the spring. We’ll be removing the wreaths on our cemetery in March, about three months after we place the wreaths,” Loy said.


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