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Memorial Day Flowers Foundation distributes flowers to 42 U.S. cemeteries

The Memorial Day Flowers Foundation was established in 2011 and it works with local organizers and thousands of volunteers to place flowers on gravesites at national, veterans and local cemeteries on Memorial Day weekend. Seven years ago, the foundation coordinated the donation of 10,000 stems at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. This year, MDFF placed 210,000 flowers at ANC and another 250,000 stems at 41 other U.S. cemeteries.

“It’s grown so much,” said MDFF director Ramiro Peñaherrera in a news release. “People are amazingly grateful.”

FT-LOGAN-2018A large group of volunteers from Amato’s Wholesale Florist in Denver distributed MDFF flowers at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.Peñaherrera credits the foundation’s growth to the generosity of over 30 flower farms in Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and California, along with several flower associations, government organizations and the entire floral industry. The California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers, Asocoflores, ProEcuador, Sole Farms, Queens Group, Passion Growers, Armellini, Cisco, Recology, TD Bank, SunTrust, Victory for Veterans, and 20 wholesale florists around the country are just a few of the many organizations that have sponsored and supported MDFF’s efforts and helped pave the way for the continued growth of this nationwide tribute.

Michael LoBue, CalFlowers chief executive officer in Capitola, CA, reported that nearly 200 volunteers placed almost 27,000 flowers on every headstone at San Francisco National Cemetery and an additional 2,000 stems at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Los Altos, CA.

“It was a postcard kind of day with perfect weather,” LoBue told The Produce News. “At this event, flowers are the medium to create the opportunity for citizens to not only honor our heroes but to enliven their awareness about the sacrifices that have been made to protect and preserve our democracy.”

Deborah Erickson, CalFlowers marketing director who volunteered for the first time this year, was impressed by the impact the flowers had on the visitors at SFNC.

“Before the formal ceremony, we had placed roses in tote bags near the ceremony seating area for distribution by volunteers from LinkedIn and Google,” Erickson told The Produce News. “We noticed that many visitors were taking photos of the flowers in the bags. Following the ceremony, these individuals were quite pleased that we gave them the opportunity to place the flowers on the graves.”

At Salem County Veterans Cemetery in Pilesgrove, NJ, DVFlora coordinated placing 3,000 flowers provided by Rosaprima on the gravestones of all the local heroes buried there.

“It was an honor to take some time out to serve and reflect on the massive sacrifices that many families have made, so that we can enjoy our freedom and time with our families,” wrote Steve Catando, purchasing manager at DVFlora in Sewell, NJ.

Renato Sogueco, vice president of digital strategy and education at BloomNet in Jacksonville, FL, organized the efforts at the Jacksonville National Cemetery for the second year. Around 40 Boy Scouts distributed 6,000 roses, up from 3,000 last year.

“We had a lot of people coming up and asking us what we were doing,” said Sogueco in a news release. “The goal is to help people remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, to honor people who have given their lives for our country. That meaning sometimes gets lost, and people see it as just another day off from work. I think this effort is growing.”

Mike Mooney, general manager at Dramm & Echter in Encinitas, CA, helped organize the tribute at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego. This year, about 160 volunteers, including employees from Wells Fargo and The Hyatt Group, placed 17,000 stems on graves.

“It’s a really moving event,” Mooney said in a news release. “I honestly don’t ever see myself doing anything else on Memorial Day. We used to go to the beach; now my kids want to be here. They were up and ready to arrive at 5:45 a.m. It’s meaningful to see the families and how much they appreciate the flowers.”

Local support and organization are the keys to the success of the tribute at the 42 cemeteries that participated this year, and MDFF relies strongly on that support to grow its mission coast-to-coast in the coming years. The foundation encourages the participation of those who have loved ones interred at cemeteries, the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, co-workers, families and friends to all share in this day of remembrance and gratefulness for those who have served.

“As a new attendee, I was extremely moved as I placed a flower on each grave,” Erickson added.

“Some of these individuals had served not in one war, but in two or three. We owe them and their loved ones our utmost gratitude and respect for their dedication and sacrifice.”

For more information, go to www.memorialdayflowers.org.