9-1-1 dispatcher will honor veterans with holiday wreaths

Longtime Marblehead 9-1-1 dispatcher Teresa Collins is leading a campaign to place holiday wreaths on the graves of nearly 2,000 veterans at Waterside Cemetery.

Collins is working with the nonprofit Wreaths Across America. So far, people have sponsored 200 wreaths. Each wreath costs $15.

“The theme of this year’s mission is to find a way to serve,” Collins told the Marblehead Current. “What more can you ask of Americans than to find a way to serve their town or city or country… for people to step up, see an opportunity and a need. This is a way I can continue to serve my community.”

Collins has been a 9-1-1 dispatcher in town for 25 years.

“For me, it’s super important to find positive things in the community, to balance it out,” she said referring to the stresses of her work.

Collins has been involved with Wreaths Across America for about a decade. Every year, she rides her motorcycle in a convoy of trucks packed with wreaths from Maine to Arlington Cemetery. “We stop for teaching moments – at schools and outside city and town halls — to talk about Wreaths Across America’s mission, which is to remember, honor and teach. It’s just been really great.”

Collins decided to bring Wreaths Across America to Marblehead in January.

“I asked myself, ‘This is Marblehead, Massachusetts. Why don’t we have this in our town, which has such a deep military history?'”

Collins worked with the senior citizens at the local ElderAct Club to pore through documents for the 19,000 people buried at Waterside Cemetery and identify those who were veterans. “It took months and months and months of research,” she said.

Since it’s the first year in Marblehead, Collins knows she probably won’t be able to put wreaths on all 2,000 graves, but she hopes to at least get enough for the 37 graves in the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) lot and 179 graves in the section deginated for vets. Two families have already sponsored wreaths for the GAR lot.

The wreaths will be placed Saturday, December 17, and Collins is looking for volunteers. The Marblehead Scouts have signed on to help.

“The public is welcome to come and lay wreaths. It’s a way to serve your town,” Collins said.

Wreaths Across America started in 1992 at Arlington National Cemetery. Last year, volunteers placed 2.4 million wreaths in 3,100 locations nationwide.

For more information and to sponsor a Marblehead wreath, click HERE. You can also follow Collins’ Wreaths Across America campaign on Facebook.

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Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

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