The mid-morning hours of March 4th saw scattered bunches of volunteers, at the Mount Hope Cemetery, in Sparta. Chainsaws interrupted morning chirping conversations, amongst the feathered inhabitants of the burial grounds. The weather still had a bit of a bite, requiring gloves to be worn, but that worked out just fine, as most of the volunteers wore the thinner-versions of the coverings, to protect their hands from the rough, natural debris they were lifting and hauling. While the reasons for each individual helping out differed, the final tally-effort by the clean-up participants equaled a better-looking area, continuing the perpetual care of the sacred land.
Scott Herrman, President of the Cemetery Association, expressed his gratitude for those who showed up. “This is great. I really thought I was going to be here by myself,” Herrman stated. “Pat Stevenson is here, with his blue tractor, Jason Hauser from Spartan Outdoor Services is here, and as well, around twenty other volunteers. I am grateful for their help.”
Iris Charles was one of the many volunteers, in attendance with her mom, Billie Charles. While most students seem to prefer the indoors and lighter activities for their required community service, Iris was in her element outside. “It’s nice to have the fresh air and not be inside all the time,” Iris told the Herald. “It [the cemetery] is quite an interesting place. To see the exact dates on peoples’ lives, as well as the intricate details and designs that adorn the headstones. I saw a couple spheres and a few logs that looked quite real. One was so well crafted, I actually thought it was a fallen tree.” Iris is a sophomore and already has set her sights on college. “I will go to a University of Wisconsin college, where I will study psychology. My end goal is to become a child psychologist.”
Jason Hauser was representing Spartan Outdoor Services, at the volunteer event. “Back in the day, neighbors used to just help each other out,” Hauser said. “I am trying to start that trend of goodwill going again. If you see someone that needs help, help them. I grew up on a farm and that is more of a code that country folks live by. It would be nice to see that return, especially in the urban area.” Hauser was recruiting Iris and Billie to come to their next clean-up gathering, on March 18th. “We will be cleaning up from Perch Lake, down to the confluence, at Evans-Bosshard Park. We will start at 9 a.m., and clean all the way down to South Court Street. Kids will be flooding into the park areas soon and we need to make sure that they do not encounter any hazardous items.”
While many hands make for light work, many hearts make for an energetic moment. Ed Lukasek, 6th Ward Alderman, was seen dragging brush and lending a hand where needed, as well as guiding the Herald to the scattered groups whereabouts. Pat Stevenson was a huge help, providing the power of his baby-blue tractor, both in getting the discarded and damaged foliage onto the wheeled-haulers and in lifting fallen cyclopean headstones back onto their base. “This tractor is 23-years’ old,” Stevenson exclaimed. “I have just taken really good care of it. I call her ‘Old Blue.”’ Dale Stickney was on hand, providing conversation and pearls of wisdom as he worked, usually in close proximity to Stevenson and Old Blue.
Paul Oswald and Gordon Dace were in another area of the grounds, working with chainsaws and 18-foot tree trimmers. When pressed by the Herald on why they were volunteering, Dace responded, “My wife saw it in the paper [Monroe County Herald] this morning, about 8 o’clock, and said, ‘Why don’t you go over and help?’ so here I am. Scott [Herrman] is our neighbor, and while I do not have my own chainsaw anymore, they let me use one of theirs.” Both Oswald and Dace brandished large smiles as they chatted and worked on making large parts of the debris a bit easier to carry, or drag.
Scott Herrman told the Herald that he would likely hold another volunteer day. “When the weather clears and gets warmer, another volunteer day would be very helpful,” he said. “I would guess that even more people will show up, as the weather will be warmer and the work will be lighter; like raking and weed trimming.”
The volunteer session went from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pat Stevenson sent verbal word across the wires that 10-dumptruck loads went out, as well as 5 smaller truck loads. “This day was a good day,” Stevenson told the Herald. “Being able to show our respect for those buried at the cemetery… it felt good to see so many contribute and care.”
For the March 18th park clean up, you can contact Jason Hauser at 608-633-5431, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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