NEWPORT CITY – A light snow fell on the ground early Saturday morning as members of the Newport Rotary Club and the North Country Union High School Interact Rotary Club, veterans, city officials, Newport City School students and other volunteers loaded more than 1,040 wreaths in the back of a large moving van. Their mission: to place the wreaths on veterans buried in Orleans County.
Rotarian Roger Cartee, a retired marketing teacher from North Country, started the local effort with his students several years ago. At first the students and in later years the Newport Rotary Club placed wreaths on the graves of every veteran in Newport City.
Robert Gosselin, owner of Spates the Florist and Garden Center, and others who helped with the effort for the past few years, wanted to place wreaths on all veterans' graves in Orleans County – 2,100 wreaths. They didn't quite make it this year.
Employees and volunteers from Spates made the majority of the beautiful pieces. The company donated some 600 wreaths. Other donations included a significant one from the Primer Balsam Tree Company, and Newport City School students covered the remaining wreaths.
Donating the wreaths was important to the volunteers.
“It’s time we should honor our veterans,” said Gosselin. “They are keeping us free and keeping the United States a free and wonderful country.”
Cartee got the idea for the project from reading an article about “wreaths Across America” and felt it was something his class could do. In its early years, six students placed 150 to 200 wreaths. Yesterday, dozens of volunteers showed up to place wreaths.
“This is a great project for the community and a great project for the young people who are helping us,” said Cartee. “We just love what we’re doing.”
Cartee called the program a civic consciousness and hopes it will make the young people become better citizens.
Chelsea Bianchi, a member of the Interact Club, got up early because she wanted to do a good thing for the community.
“It’s important to keep the cemeteries decorated, help people and be involved in the community,” added Natalie Sykes.
Newport City Mayor Paul Monette, also a Rotarian, said placing wreaths on the graves is something small compared to what the veterans did for America. Monette also urges people to help veterans all year long. It could be as simple as driving someone to a medical appointment.
“This is a dedication to a lot of people from the Revolutionary War right on through,” said Korean War and Vietnam War Veteran Frank Ormsbee of Newport City who helped distribute the wreaths. “This is a remembrance of deserving people.”
Kara Shaw, a student at Newport City School, said placing the wreaths on the graves of veterans is a kind thing to do. Shaw said she didn’t mind getting up early on Saturday morning.
“We’re doing a good thing,” she said.