Church gets needed help

Published 9:58 pm Friday, April 22, 2016

Volunteers, from left, John Martinez, Kelly Reese, Doris Jordan and Willie Scott help clean up Macedonia Baptist Church’s cemetery last weekend. (Submitted Photo)

Volunteers, from left, John Martinez, Kelly Reese, Doris Jordan and Willie Scott help clean up Macedonia Baptist Church’s cemetery last weekend. (Submitted Photo)

A local company has offered to donate much of the repairs needed to stabilize Macedonia Baptist Church’s slowly eroding cemetery.

“We are hoping to help them get everything back the way it should be … within the limitations of what we’re allowed to do with the vaults,” said Aaron Ketchum, executive vice president of Blair Brothers Inc., located in Driver.

Poor drainage and underground erosion, especially along a back ravine, has changed the landscape of the 139-year-old Hobson church’s cemetery. Weathered graves are sinking, leaving concrete burial vaults exposed, and the ravine’s sides have to be built up to prevent additional damage.

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Last month, a church committee kicked off a fundraising campaign through, a crowd-source funding site, to get contributions to restore the cemetery.

To date, the church has raised $10,135 through donations, committee member Gladys Mills said. Contributions have come from former members or their families, people with relatives buried in the cemetery, and neighbors and friends of the church, according to Mills.

Besides stabilizing the graveyard and repairing damaged headstones, the committee plans to identify and place proper markers on about 30 unmarked graves in the cemetery, Mills added. She has spoken with an archeologist at The College of William and Mary about identifying the locations of unmarked graves.

For now, everything is on hold while the Army Corps of Engineers investigates the preservation of nearby wetlands, according to Mills and Ketchum. The Army Corps will also advise Blair Brothers on how much — if any — the company can move the burial vaults, Ketchum said.

Once that decision is made and Blair Brothers and the church agree on the next steps, his company is ready to begin, Ketchum said. He is hoping to begin work in May.

“I think they were overwhelmed,” said Ketchum. “We all need a little help now and then.”

Blair expects to donate $20,000 to $25,000 in work, depending on whether the vaults can be touched, he added.

The church — a congregation of 50 mostly older members — and volunteers from the community teamed up for a cleanup day last Saturday.

“It was a huge cleanup. We probably had 100 people and we ran out of bags,” Mills said. Volunteers raked and bagged yard debris, cut down brush and overgrown tree branches, and cleaned up the church yard, she said.

None of the cemetery contributions have been used, said Mills. She and fellow committee members, James Townsell and John Thrower, stressed that all cemetery restoration donations will be used on that project.

Even with Blair’s donation, the church will incur unrelated expenses working through William & Mary and buying gravestones, they said.

“It’s important for our donors to know that their monies will only be used for the intent it was given,” Townsell said.

People can still make donations through the GoFundMe account, Mills said.