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Volunteers pitch in to clean up cemetery

COAL GROVE — When The Rev. David Huffman first told John “Meat” Compliment of his idea to have volunteers clean up Calvary Cemetery, Compliment was less than convinced it would work.

“I said, ‘It won’t work.’ And he said, ‘Well let’s try it anyway.’”

As caretaker for the Catholic cemetery located near Coal Grove Village Hall, Compliment had always had a hard time finding employees to help him to trim the grass that grows around the headstones and monuments.

For a total of 61 years, Compliment has been taking care of the cemetery and, while he keeps the grass mowed, it was difficult getting the detailed work of trimming around the stones done.

That is until about 20 volunteers from St. Joseph and St. Lawrence O’Toole churches stepped in and took over the work.

“I couldn’t get any paid employees to come and work and they’re doing it for nothing,” Compliment said. “But I guess it’s really not nothing because it’s their cemetery and they want it to look nice.”

As far as Father Huffman is concerned, one of the strengths of the church is volunteerism.

So Huffman, with the help of church members, Barbara Waginger and J.C. Medinger, organized the volunteers, a few for each section of the cemetery.

“I always have had the idea that the people should take care of their own stuff,” Huffman said. “If you get people organized, then all they need to be is asked.”

Over the past year, the volunteers have cut down at least 12 dead trees, kept the grass trimmed and trash away from the cemetery.

They have also planted 70 trees throughout the area and cleared vines from the cemetery’s fences.

“I think people have a real strong connection with loved ones’ deceased, and they want to keep them looking neat,” Huffman said. “It’s wonderful to see how the people have come together to take ownership of the final resting place of their loved ones.

“It’s a tribute to their faith and their love for the ones who’ve gone before us.”

Church members will be able to sponsor trees in memory of loved ones for Memorial Day.

“People say it’s looking better than it ever has,” Huffman said. “From now on, it’s mainly maintaining it.”