Army of volunteers helps clean up abandoned cemetery

Army of volunteers helps clean up abandoned cemetery

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A local cemetery that is abandoned and has seen many struggles has received some much-needed help.

Eastern Cemetery sits right next to Cave Hill Cemetery, but the two couldn't be more different.

Eastern Cemetery is one Louisville's oldest cemeteries. It's been around since the 1800s. According to Friends of Eastern Cemetery, a volunteer group that currently helps maintain the grounds, the cemetery was abandoned in the early 1990s.

The property has seen corruption, over burial, neglect and vandalism over the years.

It looks much better now than it did years ago, and that's because people have stepped up.

The volunteer efforts mean a lot to visitors like Tyrone Dorsey, who visits his loved ones there.

"Her birthday was yesterday, June 25, 1916," Dorsey said about his grandmother. "She turned 101 yesterday."

Dorsey has a lot of memories with his grandmother.

"Learned a lot of stuff," Dorsey said. "Miss all the home cooking."

Once a month, Dorsey goes out to clean up his relatives' gravesites at Eastern Cemetery.

"Like my grandmother said, we're not here for always, we're here for just a little while," Dorsey said.

Dorsey wants to make sure his time matters.

Another visitor, Andy Harpole, feels the same way.

"It was a place that always felt like it wanted help," Harpole said.

Harpole is the president of Friends of Eastern Cemetery, a volunteer group formed in 2013.

"This place always tugged at my heart," Harpole said. "There are around 138,000 people buried in 16,000 graves here. The owners walked away. At that point there was no one left to take care of the grounds."

Friends of Eastern Cemetery have donated their time over the years to maintain the property, but a small group like them can always use more help.

On Saturday, members of Northeast Christian Church stepped in to help.

"A lot of people might wonder, 'why a cemetery?'," David McKinley of Northeast Christian Church said. "But, we care about the forgotten. We sent the 100 people to mow, weed eat, spruce up, clean up around the gravestones help with the taking out some trees."

"Northeast Christian brought in a couple 40-yard dumpsters, bobcat, people skilled to use these things," Harpole said.

One of the massive trees that fell was on top of gravesites.

"We actually had a family member here at the time whose sister was buried under that tree, so it was very emotional for him to witness the tree finally being removed," Harpole said. "When a group comes in and supplies that kind of equipment, you see mountains get moved."

As for Dorsey, to see that others care for his family and the strangers buried at Eastern is heartwarming.

"It means a whole lot," Dorsey said. "This is the best I've seen it."

The clean-up was part of Northeast Christian's #Lovetheville Clifton Blitz.

Friends of Eastern Cemetery is always organizing volunteer days. To find out how you can help, click here.

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