volunteerism

Lane Street Project: B.H.M. Clean-Up testimony.

The community delivered another successful volunteer clean-up at Odd Fellows cemetery yesterday. I’ll let folk tell you about it.

Angie Hall stands near her finds.

Working toward the back of Odd Fellows, Angie Hall noticed several water-filled depressions. After clearing away vines and debris, she and another volunteer uncovered two headstones: “Today I did a thing. I volunteered to assist the Lane Street Project clearing out the old cemetery, and I discovered a few graves once my feet fell into a hole of water. Here I stand in front of two graves. I don’t know why I wanted to know more about who they were but the feeling of joy and accomplishment I felt was amazing. And today my grandma turned 80! What a blessing to be in the presence of my ancestors on this beautiful Saturday.”  

Joshua Robinson noticed that work was being done on more than one level: “Awesome experience, I am so happy to see such a project bring the community together. We were clearing tree limbs, vines, and other debris to find those lost to time, but we were also clearing the way for a better city, unity, and love!”
 
Julia Newton, who came to the Project from East Wilson’s Seeds of Hope community garden: “I spent some more time removing layers of wisteria roots from around the graves of Samuel and Annie Vick. It’s deeply humbling to do this work. This situation must exist in every community in the South. Thanks to everyone for their help and friendliness.”
 
Shaquanda King reflected on the impact of volunteering to improve her home community: “My cousin and I volunteered for the first time yesterday for the early morning. Was able to gain some knowledge and history from the overseers. It was an amazing experience for someone who was born and raised here.”
 
Janelle Booth Clevinger returned after helping make the January Clean-Up Kick-Off a success. She  encountered one of the cemetery’s vexing problems: “Another great afternoon spent with wonderful people! The best projects are grassroots projects, filled with people who are there for the right reasons! Thought I’d found an area full of tombstones, but they turned out to be strangely shaped pieces of concrete that resemble footings of some sort. We are thinking they may have been dumped there as trash. Leave it to me to find garbage.”
 
Castonoble Hooks, a key member of the Lane Street Project team: “Honored to be a part from the very start because I can see the progress firsthand. The removal of wisteria has opened up parts of this sacred burial site allowing the light of the sun to shine upon and bring honor again to our ancestors. Hands-on history, excited to see children black, white, and Hispanic working with fervor. This project, like no other, attracts the best of the best — a group as diverse as the country itself.”

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — what to do.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: So … what’s the plan?

A: Glad you asked.

  • You’ll be assigned to a lane marked at the edge of the overgrowth. Try to work straight back toward the rear of the property, maintaining social distance between you and the next person. 
  • The short-term goal is clear the cemetery of trash and undergrowth — vines, privet, vines, small shrubs … did I say vines? Wisteria and smilax (green with thorns) are probably the worst invaders, with honeysuckle a close third. You can’t go wrong by cutting every vine you see, both at ground level and as high as you can reach.

Wiley Oates’ lovely monument was covered with a cape of honeysuckle vine. If the vines aren’t cut back hard, the obelisk will disappear again come summer.

  • Watch out — vines can snap back and pop you pretty hard. 
  • Also, watch your feet. Vines can trip you, and you’ll want to avoid stepping into sunken graves, animal burrows, or other holes in the ground.
  • Please don’t try to cut down any trees.
  • Please haul out any trash you find, but do not move grave markers. Here’s what to do instead. Markers may look like chunks of concrete or rocks, so to be on the safe side, don’t move any of either. 

An entry into Odd Fellows opened by volunteers in December 2020. 

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — what to bring.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

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Q: Hey! I’ll be there! What should I bring?

A: Thank you! The most important thing, of course, is a MASK! This will be a COVID-conscious event, and masks and social distancing will be required.

Also:

  • Your own particular talents. Whether strong arms or strong voices of encouragement, we need what you bring!
  • Protective clothing such as long sleeves, gloves, and boots. 
  • Hand tools only — hand pruners, loppers, hedge trimmers, mattocks, rakes, spades, etc.
  • No chainsaws. No other mechanized or heavy equipment. 
  • Jugs of water and nylon-bristle brushes for cleaning headstones, but no soaps, detergents or other cleaning agents. They will damage the headstones. 
  • Trashbags. 

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

Lane Street Project: Q’s & A’s — preliminary info.

Lane Street Project is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of Rountree, Odd Fellows, and Vick cemeteries. We welcome community volunteer support to achieve our goals of reclaiming the cemeteries and honoring the sacred remains of our ancestors. At present, Rountree and Odd Fellows are covered with 40+ years of overgrowth. Burials date back to the 1890s, and many of the graves have collapsed. It is a fragile environment.

——

Q: I’m coming to the Clean-Up Kick-Off! What do I need to know?

A: First, Lane Street Project appreciates you!

Here are a few things to know before you arrive:

  • Masks and social distancing will be enforced at the Clean-Up Kick-Off. For real. Be safe!
  • Wear comfortable protective clothing – gloves, boots, long-sleeved outer garments.
  • Cleaning up abandoned cemeteries carries risks of injury, and you will be required to sign a waiver before you begin working.
  • At the beginning of each clean-up session, Lane Street Project volunteers will explain the history of the cemeteries and go over guidelines. 
  • To facilitate social distancing, you’ll be assigned a clean-up lane. 
  • Please bag all trash and cuttings and dispose of them in the bins provided. 
  • Here’s what to bring — and what not.
  • Here’s what to do if you find a headstone or other grave marker.
  • The atmosphere will be joyous and celebratory, but these are cemeteries — please be respectful.

Odd Fellows cemetery on a sunny December morning. Della Hines Barnes’ marble headstone inspired Lane Street Project’s logo.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.

Lane Street Project: Annie Washington Vick.

We were exulting over the discovery of Samuel H. Vick‘s headstone when we stumbled upon the vault cover for his wife, Annie Washington Vick.

Though her obituary states that she was buried in Rountree cemetery, Vick actually was interred in Odd Fellows cemetery.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 August 1952.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2020.