Kaposia OA Organizes Fort Snelling National Cemetery Cleanup
Over 200,000 Gravestones
On Saturday, February 4, 2017, hundreds of local Scouts took part in a massive cleanup effort at Fort Snelling. The Kaposia Order of the Arrow helps organize a volunteer day at Fort Snelling National Cemetery every February to clean up old Christmas wreaths.
There are more than 200,000 graves in Fort Snelling National Cemetery, most of them a small slab of gray marble. In December, Christmas wreaths are placed on the snow-covered headstones to honor the soldiers buried there. By February, the once green wreaths are brown.
To maintain and beautify the hallowed grounds, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and other volunteers from across the Twin Cities come together to clean up the Veteran’s Cemetery by removing the old wreaths.
A Major Effort
The service project is largely Scout involved. In 2016, approximately 300 Boy Scouts and 100 Cub Scouts from over 14 districts volunteered, making up almost half of the total participation. Scouts are sent off to work in certain areas and by mid-morning, semi-trucks arrive with dumpsters. The older volunteers haul trailers full old wreaths to the dumpsters.
The semi-trailer sized dumpsters become filled to the brim with wreaths. According to Mark Ellenberger, Kaposia OA Chapter Service Advisor, two more dumpsters had to be requested for this year’s cleanup, making a total of nine dumpsters needing to be filled!
How It Started
The Kaposia District first organized the group cleanup in 2004 with 36 volunteers. Over a decade later, nearly 800 people gather on a Saturday morning in early February to care for this very important place.
"People really like it,” Ellenberger says. “They make the connection that they’re helping a very meaningful place in the community."
Today, the event is entirely run by Scouts in the Order of the Arrow, a service organization and national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. Members are elected from within their units and recognized as those who best live the ideals of brotherhood, cheerfulness and service. Hogan Lawson is the Kaposia OA Chapter Service Vice-Chief.
Helping care for this very important place is just one example of how Scouting motivates young people to build their communities by serving others.