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Carry on Christmas traditions

Show-Me Life: 4-H members rally support this holiday season for Wreaths for Warriors in southwest Missouri.

Mindy Ward

December 22, 2023

4 Min Read
Aria Duwe, 9, left, and brother Payton Duwe, 12 at a wreath-laying ceremony at a cemetery
CARRY ON: Aria Duwe (left), 9, and brother Payton Duwe, 12, members of the Lawrence County Stockman’s 4-H Club, attend the 2022 wreath-laying ceremony at Springfield National Cemetery. The duo spearheaded an effort to raise funds and continue the tradition this year. MU Extension

It’s Dec. 13. My 2-year-old grandson waddles over with a tote full of wrapped gifts, grunts and places it at my feet. “Wow, buddy who brought you those Christmas presents?” I ask. Beaming from ear to ear he responds, “Santa!”

Hmmm, I think to myself, close.

When my children were little, my mother started the 12 Days of Christmas, where she wrapped tiny presents for them to open each day. We lived in Minnesota at the time, so every day my girls would call her and share what they received — coloring books, crayons, ChapStick — it didn’t matter, they were so excited.

After my mother passed away, I continued the tradition with my daughters. It was a way for me to honor and celebrate her as a great mom and grandmother. Today, I continue it with her great-grandson.

I love Christmas traditions. So, when I read about Lawrence County 4-H’ers carrying on Wreaths for Warriors in southwest Missouri, I knew I had to share it.

Traditions worth continuing

Brother and sister — Payton Duwe, 12, and Aria, 9 — placed a wreath on their great-grandfather’s grave. It was just one of thousands that Lawrence County 4-H’ers left at the Springfield National Cemetery during this year’s Wreaths for Warriors ceremony.

“We wanted to give back to all those who served and show our respect,” Payton, who is a member of the Lawrence County Stockman's 4-H Club, said in a University of Missouri news release.

Fellow 4-H Club members liked the idea and recruited six other county 4-H Clubs to join the effort. Together, through fundraisers, the 4-H’ers were able to purchase enough live evergreen wreaths to lay at veterans’ tombstones.

MU Extension - Wreaths with red bows line headstones at a cemetery with American flags flying at full-staff

The project reflects 4-H at its best, said Karla Deaver, a MU Extension youth development specialist who oversees 4-H in Lawrence County.

“It is extremely important that we provide service-learning opportunities that are important to our youth,” she explained. “It needs to be something that is personal to them, and they need to be involved in the decision-making. Then we can help them share their passion for the project, and that significantly increases the chances of successful project.”

Community provides support

One of the great things about small-town, rural American life is that when kids decide to give back, to carry on a tradition, the community steps up.

Payton applied successfully for a grant from FCS Financial.

Jack Henry & Associates in Springfield led an employee donation campaign.

Walmart, in Republic, had a manager who went out of his way to organize the purchase and delivery of wreaths that are coming by truck all the way from North Carolina.

The Missouri 4-H Foundation provided a community service grant, sponsored by Crader Distributing Co. and StihlDealers.com, to help underwrite the project and facilitate the Wreaths for Warriors Give Direct platform.

“We really want to thank everyone for their support,” Aria said. “We’ve really worked on this, and we’ve come super far toward our goal.”

Kimberly Duwe, Payton and Aria’s mother and the Stockman's 4-H Club leader, said one of the best parts of the project has been the community support, including from Mount Vernon, a town of about 4,000 people.

“It’s just a small town in Lawrence County, and yet so many people have come out and supported and donated to the kids because they believe in the project and in investing in our future,” Kim said. “I think this project is a win for humanity. It shows that people of all ages are still out there caring.”

What a great group of kids, parents and community members to carry on such an important event this time of year. Kudos to you all.

I hope they inspire you this holiday season to recall a tradition and keep it going, or better yet, start a new one that your family will continue for years — even if Santa gets the credit!

Merry Christmas!

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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