VOLUNTEERS NEEDED – A Community Cleanup group is looking for volunteers to help remove sod and debris from around the grave markers of veterans at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens in Owosso on Saturday, July 3 and Saturday, July 17 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Gathered at Hillcrest on Wednesday, June 30 are (from left) Community Outreach Program Coordinator Claudette Ebe, Community Cleanup organizer/administrator Jessica Green and Owosso VFW Post 9455 Auxiliary President Karen Horn.
Horn had just removed roughly 4-inches of sod from the cement perimeter of the grave marker of a WWI veteran.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
The public is invited to help a Community Cleanup group, composed of members from the Owosso Community Cleanup group on Facebook and representatives from the Owosso VFW, to help restore numerous markers at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens in Owosso.
Hillcrest Owner Adrianna McGeehan has welcomed the group in to assist. McGeehan has only owned Hillcrest for two years and has two groundskeepers to assist in maintaining the roughly 8,000 gravesites located in the cemetery on the west side of S. Washington Street in Owosso. According to cleanup organizers, McGeehan has been very supportive of their interest in taking care of the markers, whereas a previous owner had been less willing to assist.
Under Hillcrest’s funding policy, maintenance of the grounds and gravesites are covered, but not the actual grave markers. In time, numerous veterans’ markers have sunk into the soil several inches. A previous owner would charge to dig the markers out and raise them to ground level. McGeehan has told the group that the cemetery will not charge to raise the markers – both veteran and civilian markers – though this is an enormous project given the size of the cemetery and community volunteers are needed in the effort.
The Owosso Community Cleanup group was started in 2020 on social media by Jessica Green who was looking to tidy up local parks. Green, who is from Owosso and is a veteran, was more than willing to help Claudette Ebe and the Owosso VFW Auxiliary to clean up markers at Hillcrest. The Owosso VFW Auxiliary had noticed many of the markers were partially covered up or sinking while placing flags on the sites during recent holidays. Some of the markers could no longer be read.
“Every year, we are just sick when we find this like this,” shared Owosso VFW Post 9455 Auxiliary President Karen Horn on Wednesday morning, referencing the veterans’ markers. “We walk over them and we can’t find them. We want our veterans represented. We want them to be spit-shined and beautiful.”
The Community Cleanup group’s partnership with the Owosso VFW marks the first big project of 2021. Ebe, who is the Community Outreach Program Coordinator for the Owosso VFW had worked with Green on previous park clean up projects last year.
“This is not due to this administration,” Horn emphasized about McGeehan. “They just bought it. Now, we’re trying to get it cleaned up.” McGeehan and her crew will be on hand this Saturday to help out – even supplying water and hot dogs.
Volunteers of all ages are welcome to come out and help. Some tools will be available, but it is recommended to bring shovels and gardening tools along to make the task easier.
“If you’re maybe just sitting there and wondering what you’re going to go out and do today, well, go out and clean two graves,” suggested Horn. “Bring your trusty shovel and help.”
Currently, because of all of the recent rain, the ground at the cemetery is quite soft to work with, making the task easier. For those unable to shovel or do strenuous work, water and rags to wash the markers will be available.
Everyone is welcome to join in and that includes church organizations, youth groups, other service groups or any service-minded individuals.
The Owosso VFW Auxiliary places 800 flags honoring veterans at Hillcrest every year.