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Valley Center community rallies to save Christmas tradition honoring veterans at cemetery

Posted at 4:27 PM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 21:38:57-05

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. (KGTV) - Amid a COVID-related cancellation at a Valley Center cemetery, a community is coming together to help save an annual tradition.

Valley Center Cemetery is the final resting place to more than 300 veterans. On Friday, local florist Jenelle Brinneman learned an annual holiday sight would not be laid out.

She says the local chapter of a nonprofit that puts down Christmas wreaths at military grave markers announced there would be no wreaths, citing logistical problems in placing them amid COVID-19 restrictions and stay-at-home orders.

"Our hearts dropped, because we know how much it means," said Brinneman.

On Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Brinneman raised money to place roses at military grave sites amid similar cancellations.

"There were strangers thanking us. People were crying, watching us put roses down," said Brinneman.

Undeterred after the most recent disappointment, Brinneman posted on Facebook on Friday a call for donations to make wreath sprays, a smaller version of wreaths. When she returned home Saturday evening, she discovered something astounding.

"I just started crying right there. Our town is amazing ... My driveway was filled with pine, cedar, ribbons, and wreaths companies were about to throw away," said Brinneman.

Brinneman set up a workshop in her driveway. Dozens of volunteers have signed up to help assemble.

"This is what the Christmas spirit is all about," said Brinneman.

She's also hoping to include message from kids.

"It will be so great to walk past and see a little note attached from an amazing child in our town," said Brinneman.

Brinneman says come Christmas Eve -- thanks to a community's support -- she'll be able to place the sprays at every military grave marker in the cemetery.

"They deserve to be recognized. Seeing the wreaths on the grave markers is something unexplainable. Because of the community, loves ones will see those wreaths," said Brinneman.

Brinneman is still in need of a lot of messages from kids. If you'd like to send a message, take a photo of the child's handwritten message and email it to bellanifloralevents@outlook.com. You can also drop off a handwritten message at Fat Ivors Rib Rack between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. or the mailbox at Bellani Floral.