Florist picks up the slack with wreaths
Due to the efforts of a florist and residents, it appears that Oxford will again honor fallen service personnel.
OXFORD >> For eight years the Oxford American Legion has played host to Wreaths Across America, the annual wreath-laying ceremony on fallen veterans’ graves in mid-December that concludes at Arlington National Cemetery with wreath drop-offs along the way (including Oxford) from Maine. This year, however, the project hit a snag, and there was fear among the Oxford area community that there would be no ceremony in the town.
But thanks to the efforts of a local florist and a lot of concerned residents, it appears that Oxford will again honor its fallen service personnel with a solemn wreath laying ceremony on Dec. 17.
The glitch in the plans came to light last month when townspeople and American Legion members realized that the fundraiser that pays for the wreaths delivered by the national organization had fallen short. In fact, the town had raised only enough money for 150 wreaths, and there were 1,200 veterans buried at Oxford’s cemetery who were worthy of the honor of a wreath.
That upset Vicki Robinson and her staff at Philips Florist on Market Street, and they decided to do something about it.
They first spread the word that they needed to make about 1,200 more wreaths, and they asked for community support.
Fortunately for them, the response was overwhelming.
The first project they had was a day of bow-tying.
They invited volunteers in to their building and they had people tie red velvet bows — scores of them.
Employee Michelle Sapp said they were able to obtain the velvet material for next to nothing, and the project on that Saturday yielded a huge pile. “Some of the people were afraid their bows would not look good, but we told them they would welcome almost any style of tying,” she said.
Then came the need for the greens.
Sapp said they did not believe they were capable of making wreaths, so they decided to create 12-inch swags.
Again they gave a call out to the community and were rewarded with volunteers offering greens from Christmas tree farms and left over ugly trees from tree sales.
“They told us ‘If you can provide the transport, you can have as many as you want,’” she said.
That worked for them, and they have the swag making event scheduled for the week of Dec. 10.
“We have sign-up sheets. Every swag will be different,” Sapp said.
Meanwhile, there was the question of the ceremony, which in previous years involved the laying of a ceremonial wreath by a member of each of the armed services, followed by distribution to all the graves by scouts and other volunteers.
Again, it appeared the plans for the Dec. 17 ceremony were not in place.
Borough council and American Legion member John Thompson said they are not sure if this will play out as it has in the past. A meeting was scheduled for Nov. 22 to get things organized.
Plans for details will be made public after that, Thompson said.
In previous years, the Chester County Sheriff’s Department and the American Legion organized the event, supported heavily by various motorcycle groups. In the past, the service began at Sacred Heart Church and then continued into the adjacent cemetery.
Even with plans not completed, Sapp was optimistic about the eventual outcome.
“There’s no way we’re not going to be able to make this happen,” she said.
Philips Florist employees Jennifer Lewis and Michelle Sapp sit among the 1,200 ribbons that were created by volunteers for the planned ceremony honoring fallen armed service personnel.