Last week, Wreaths Across America (WAA) recognized Tyson Foods, Inc. as the fifth recipient of the organization’s annual James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award. WAA Founder Morrill Worcester and his son Rob – a volunteer who helps coordinate transportation and logistics for the nonprofit – presented the Tyson Foods’ team with the award on July 12 at the 6th Annual Stem to Stone event held in Downeast Maine, where the nonprofit is headquartered. This is also where the balsam is grown to make the veterans’ wreaths sponsored by the public and placed by volunteers each December as part of the WAA’s mission to Remember, Honor and Teach.
The James Prout/WAA Spirit of Giving Award is named in memory of James Prout, owner of Blue Bird Ranch Trucking of Jonesboro, Maine. Prout was the first person to volunteer to haul wreaths for WAA when the program was in its infancy. The award is given annually to a deserving professional truck driver, company or organization that has supported charitable causes in a way that will affect generations to come.
Operations Manager Michael Blessing accepted the award on behalf of Tyson Foods. “I think I speak for the entire team when I say what an honor it is to be a part of the Wreaths Across America family,” he said. “The mission is impacting lives across the country and we are humbled to play a small part to ensure the wreaths are safely delivered and volunteers are well fed and cared for each season.”
Tyson Foods started hauling veterans’ wreaths for WAA seven years ago with only two trucks. In 2012, after waiting in line with many others to be loaded, they came up with an idea and made WAA an offer to help create a truckers’ lounge to accommodate waiting drivers. This commitment to the mission has continued and only increased since then. In 2018, in addition to hauling 18 loads of veterans’ wreaths, they fed all 500+ volunteer truck drivers that came to Maine to load wreaths, as well as all the loading crews, WAA staff and volunteers, and visiting Gold Star families. They also provided the food for the escort to Arlington send-off dinner.
“By having the Wreaths Across America logo on my truck I am a better driver,” said James Shaw, a long-time Wreaths Across America volunteer and professional truck driver for Tyson Foods. “I have an obligation to drive the best I can to represent our veterans and the work of this honorable organization that does so much good for our country.”
The trucking industry is vital in helping WAA achieve its goal of honoring fallen soldiers each year. In addition to transporting wreaths, Tyson Foods supports the organization through fundraising efforts for Fayetteville National Cemetery in Arkansas and other local veterans’ and non-veterans’ nonprofit organizations. Their WAA Fundraising Group is called Transportation Warriors - you can sponsor a wreath through their page here.
“Without the trucking community and their generous donations of time and services, our mission simply would not be possible,” Rob Worcester explained. “The work Tyson has done continues to inspire the WAA team to improve the truckers’ lounge and overall experience for volunteer drivers coming to Maine to load wreaths. They are an amazing partner and true friends of the organization, for which we are grateful.”