Wreaths Across America receives no government funding to support operations. Motivated and dedicated patriots across the country and at locations overseas power the Maine-based nonprofit organization. The mission to remember, honor, and teach is carried out daily by millions of citizens who care deeply for those who have served our nation in the armed forces, and their families. Some of these remarkable individuals are veterans themselves or come from military families while others are driven by a deep sense of patriotism and community service.
Placing fresh, hand-made balsam remembrance wreaths on the headstones of veterans across the country in December requires tremendous logistics and unyielding support from the trucking industry.
Wreaths Across America shows its gratitude and appreciation for all those involved in transporting America's respect with "Trucking Tributes." These stories introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
Professional drivers exhibit great pride in their work and industry that moves the world. They rarely shy away from a challenge, and a large percentage of them have served our nation in uniformed service.
Wreaths Across America benefits from the generosity of trucking companies and professional drivers as they transport America's respect for our nations fallen heroes to the millions of volunteers who serve as their witness. Drivers repeatedly tell "Trucking Tributes" the veterans' wreath is the most revered load they will ever haul.
They can also tell you what a logistical challenge it can be to support the Wreaths Across America effort. That's what makes their contributions, flexibility, and can-do attitude more impressive. Wreaths Across America's Debbie Sparks (Corporate Development & Community Relations) with the transportation team explains.
"We're working within a very short window of time from the start of the wreath-making season In Maine to National Wreath Day," Debbie explains. "The way Wreaths Across America works, and what it means to the country, truly makes it a unique business. Wreath Day in December falls at a busy time of year for people dealing with family, friends, holiday traditions, gatherings, and shipping for businesses. Logistics experts tell us all the time to set a cut-off date for the wreath sponsorships, and that will ensure all the wreaths will be delivered without a mistake, but that's not realistic. We're a human business dealing with a perishable product, and if we make mistakes it's for the right reasons, and we're learning. Wreaths Across America is about the individual; the one story of a loved ones sacrifice. We don't want to take away anyone's opportunity or excitement for remembering and honoring a fallen hero. We want to be sure no one has to say, 'What about my son?'.
When trucking partners get directly involved with delivering fresh balsam fir veterans' wreaths from Maine to over 1400 locations and overseas, they better understand the process, and it motivates them to step up even more.
"The most powerful thing I've seen in a long time is how people unite to work together on solutions when there are glitches in the system," Debbie shares. "We had some growing pains last year with over 200 new locations coming on board with us. In addition to a 32 percent increase, we had a brand-new logistics partner in NFI, a new database, and some personnel changes. Despite those hurdles, people rallied to help one another. It's a testament to the American spirit, our patriotism, our love of family, and true values in human nature and kindness."
Those unfamiliar with Wreaths Across America may be under the impression there's a "slow" time of the year for the organization, but that's not the case. The first quarter of the year is a busy time for Debbie, NFI, and Rob & Sarah Worcester as they meet and greet trucking companies and work to build robust transportation infrastructure to accommodate the growing mission across the country.
"As a nonprofit organization, we have to determine what's the most effective and efficient means to get those fresh, balsam fir veterans' wreaths from point A to point B. However, we do something that no other shipper in America does, and that's backing up a truck to the loading dock based on projections. There needs to be a lot of advanced planning along with the flexibility to handle spontaneous situations to fulfill the wish of those last-minute wreath orders that are coming in."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
"Many people don't realize how small a staff we have at Wreaths Across America handling everything from customer service for location coordinators and fundraising groups to trucking and shipping," Debbie explains. "This year, our amazing partners at NFI will be able to provide us with more resources allowing us to separate some of those functions providing for a better customer service and communications experience for all involved."
Wreaths Across America is always looking to grow our Honor Fleet. Last year we had over 260 carriers participating in delivering 500 loads. That translates to 1,565,000 veterans' wreaths to over 1,433 participating locations. The goal for 2018 is 2,000,000 wreaths with 1,500 participating locations as more volunteers get involved with the mission to remember, honor and teach.
You can meet the Wreaths Across America transportation team, and check out the new education trailer unit donated by Chevy at the following trucking shows:
March 21-24 Mid America Trucking Show Louisville, Kentucky
March 25-28 Truckload Carriers Association 2018 Annual Convention Kissimmee, FL
April 8-10 American Moving & Storage Association's Education Conference & Expo Fort Lauderdale, FL
April 28 - May 1st National Private Truck Council Annual Education Management Conference and Exhibition Cincinnati, Ohio
Also, be sure to ask about our "logistics funds" which could help owner/operators participate as a member of the Honor Fleet.
You can hear more from Debbie in "Trucking Tributes" which airs Tuesdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00PM EST on Wreaths Across America Radio.