volunteerism

Lane Street Project: Season 3, January 28.

I live far from Wilson, and my schedule does not align with LSP workdays as often as I would like. I am grateful to be able to rely on the eyes, hands, and hearts of so many to make each day a success. Wilson native Jane Cooke Hawthorne, who first came out to work at Odd Fellows in Season 1, beautifully described her experience yesterday:
“Do you love a daffodil like I do? Spring’s first flowers often push through before the last frosts, their brilliant yellow trumpets announcing that a new season is on its way! They are a symbol of re-birth and resurrection — a sight for weary, winter jaded eyes. Daffodils were often planted in cemeteries and are sometimes called the ‘Cemetery Ladies’ — a nod towards their faithful and upright appearance among the headstones.
“Today I had the honor and privilege of working at the beautiful Odd Fellows Cemetery in my hometown of Wilson, and I was hoping that the daffodils would be blooming. Odd Fellows is an African-American Cemetery in East Wilson that is being resurrected by faithful people under the umbrella of the Lane Street Project. Mostly through volunteer work over the last two years, the project has reclaimed gravestones and other markers hidden by debris, vines and overgrowth, in some places as deep as two feet, after years of neglect. Our instructions were to be mindful of and to not disturb the daffodils that grow in the underbrush. Especially in African-American cemeteries, we were told, daffodils and other shrubs such as palmetto were used to mark the grave instead of a headstone when the family could not afford such a luxury. I wasn’t sure there’d be any daffodils, but when I found them blooming today, my heart was full.
“Here were the daffodils springing forth to say, ‘Here I am, friend! Here I am, family! Here I am!! I lived and worked and played and loved and welcomed each spring in Wilson! And I am so glad that you have found me! I am not forgotten! I am loved and remembered and cherished!’ My clippers moved quickly to free the vines around those daffodils, and my heart filled even more.
“Taking a break, I spoke in the most honest way, as only one can, with Castonoble Hooks, Lane Street Project’s cheerleader, poet laureate, and head of the project’s Senior Force. (I’m now a card-carrying member). I asked him, ‘Who owns this place after the efforts of the Senior Force, after the hard and dedicated work of Lisa, after the hard work of all the folks who have put in an hour or two or sixty? Who will own this place?’ ‘All of us,’ he said.
“All. Of Us.
“I think the daffodils are having their say. Come and help the Lane Street Project and let your heart be filled like mine was today.”
Thanks so much, Jane, for all you do to support Lane Street Project in word and deed!

Lane Street Project: brush removal guidelines and thank yous.

We love the growing partnerships we’re building with creatives, companies, and even corporations. Lane Street Project can use everyone’s gifts and talents!

Drew Wilson, Chris Facey, Anita Pouchard Serra, Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez, George E. Freeney Jr., and Keith Danemiller are among the photographers who have turned their discerning eyes to LSP, capturing — literally and figuratively — the work we do at Odd Fellows, Vick and Rountree Cemeteries. Add Bo Baines to the cadre:

Last workday, volunteer Cameron Homes of Homes Landscaping Inc of Wilson offered professional guidance for tackling removal of wisteria, privet, briars, and other invasive plants. We’re pleased that his advice affirms much of what we’ve been doing to date. Homes suggests that we:
  • Remove scattered dead brush other than pine straw and leaves to the parking lot curbside via tarp-loads. Also remove dead and dying hanging vines insofar as they are safely accessible. [We’ve been raking the ground cover away, but this is essentially mulch and will help keep down weedy new growth.]
  • Do not disturb yucca, daffodils, or other decorative plants. [We’ve been preaching this! Families placed these plants at graves, often in lieu of expensive stone or concrete markers. Wisteria is the exception to this rule.]
  • Place brush in neat piles of lengths of about 6 feet for claw truck collection by the city’s Sanitation Department.
  • Clip wisteria and privet growth at a height about two feet above the ground so that their leafy spring growth will be easier to identify and treat with sprayed defoliant.
  • Establish limited paths cleared to ground level for access to interior locations;  remove brush via tarps and light wheeled equipment.
  • Remove only specified dead or damaged trees and live invasive trees to near ground level. [This work can be dangerous and should be done only by experienced teams of volunteers.]
  • Remove trash and other identified debris to parking lot curb in large heavy duty black bags. Buried trash can be carefully dug out of the ground using tined digging forks. [Piles of trash often line former access ways used by vehicles to dump. Before removing a pile, please photo the area and get a GPS location reading with your phone. (Ask a LSP team member for help if needed.) We’d like to plot these points to map out these pathways. Anybody know a Boy Scout looking for a project??]

Thank you, Cameron and Bo!

Lane Street Project: Season 3, 14 January.

Season 3’s first workday was a success!

Our usual multiracial, multigenerational collection of local volunteers was augmented by a several out-of-town guests, including a large group from AgBiome in Research Triangle Park, invited by LSP committee member Raven S. Farmer!

Looking into Odd Fellows cemetery near the Thomas family plot. Two years ago, there was a solid wall of shrubs, vines, and saplings just beyond Sarah Thomas’ headstone at left. At the beginning of last year, there was an impenetrable tangle of honeysuckle and wisteria in the middle distance. Thanks to all who’ve helped us get this far!

Sincere Wright, his son Israel, Raven S. Farmer, and Briggs Sherwood — ready to receive our guest volunteers!

Sign-in yesterday morning. 

Clearing last summer’s wisteria growth around Hood Phillips‘ headstone.

Some of yesterday’s volunteers, including the AgBiome crew!

Ready for pick-up!

The next three workdays are January 28, February 11, and February 25!

Photos courtesy of Raven S. Farmer, Castonoble Hooks, and Sincere Wright.

Lane Street Project: please join us.

Standing at the edge of Odd Fellows Cemetery gazing into the jungle of Rountree Cemetery. The green and red are new sprouts of wisteria, which will be in its riotous, ruinous lavender glory in a few weeks. Fifteen months ago, much of Odd Fellows looked like this. The weather has not been kind to our cleanup schedule this year, please help us make the most of the remainder of Season 2.

Next dates: March 26, April 9, April 23.

Lane Street Project: Season 2, number 2.

The original bulbs of these daffodils were planted in Odd Fellows Cemetery 70-125 years ago.

My visits to Wilson have not generally aligned well with LSP clean-ups, but this one did, and I was elated to join the last Black History Month effort at Odd Fellows. I am grateful to everyone who came out, including the cadre of Wilson Police Department officers that showed up early and stayed late to fell dead pines in the woods and clear winter’s dead weeds from the front; the pastors and members of Saint Timothy’s and Saint Mark’s Episcopal Churches; Our Wilson Mentoring; the Wilson Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (as always!); Wilson Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Total Impact Church (who brought barbecue lunches!); WhirliDogs; Seeds of Hope; and — surprise! — a group of students from East Carolina University’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement, who came to Wilson to work at Seeds of Hope’s community garden and were steered over to Odd Fellows to learn a little Wilson history and help us out! 

A cautionary word, though. Safety first. Please, PLEASE don’t lean on monuments. After 100+ years, many are unstable. Henry Tart‘s obelisk, the largest in Odd Fellows, was accidentally toppled Saturday. Fortunately, no one was standing behind it when it fell, as they would have been seriously injured. The obelisk was not damaged, but will have to remain where it is until we can secure professional help to stabilize the base and reset the shaft and pyramidion.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2022.