Volunteers Help Clean Up Cemetery Once Burglarized By Thieves

Volunteers Clean Cemetery Once Burglarized

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – This weekend, there's new help to fix an old problem.

After an historic Triad cemetery was burglarized, college students are helping out by donating something way more valuable than money -- their time.

Organizers say it's a prime example of how the love of some people can outweigh the evil of others.

Last Labor Day, police say thieves broke in to the caretaker's house at the OddFellows cemetery in Winston-Salem.

It's estimated that 10,000 people including many veterans from our area have been laid to rest there.

Organizers didn't know how they would bounce back and get the cemetery cleaned up until an unlikely group of helpers came forward.

Over 300 volunteers including college students from all over the state gave up their Saturday to help clean the cemetery.

Football players came from Winston-Salem State University.

Soccer players came from Wake Forest University.

Some students, like the fraternity brothers from the N.C. State chapter of Delta Upsilon, drove two hours just to lend a helping hand.

"It's great that everybody could come together to the local community and help out," said Drew Pleasants, President of the fraternity. "This project doesn't get done without the help of others."

Police in Winston-Salem are still looking for the thieves who broke in to the caretaker's house and stole thousands of dollars' worth of rakes, shovels, chainsaws, and other tools.

James Clyburn, President of the Friends of the OddFellows Cemetery says he had his doubts about whether the cemetery would ever look the same.

"When our cemetery got broken into and we lost our lawnmowers and rakes and clippers and everything, we were downhearted," said Clyburn. "We didn't know how we were going to keep our cemetery cleaned up."

However, thanks to the volunteers with the Professional Grounds Management Society, the cemetery is looking better than ever.

"We have had folks come from as far away as Alabama and say that this is the first time that they have seen the relative's grave," said David Davis, President of the PGMS. "So it's rewarding to know that people notice and that they care."

"It feels really good," said Clyburn. "It shows the love of people and the love that people have in their heart to come and help."

Pleasants said it's obviously great to help out and make a difference in the community.

But he says the best part is the fact that he and his brothers got a chance to bond with each other and with the community.

Plus, many of these college students got more out of it than they put into it.

"It's great to do the service work but it's also great to learn about the political and social history of the area," said Pleasants. "It's great to gain this now and should not only serve but to learn from the local community members that weed projects like this and learn about their experiences."

Clyburn says the cemetery looks much better now but he says their work is still not done.

Local volunteers meet up on the third Saturday of every month to do maintenance work.

To learn more about how you can help, visit the Friends of the OddFellows Cemetery Facebook page.

To learn more about the Professional Grounds Management Society and how you can be a part of the volunteer work, visit the PGMS website.


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