Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Cemetery and its Friends

Recently a student from Philadelphia’s Temple University wrote a blog about her experience volunteering to help clean up at Mount Moriah Cemetery (Philadelphia and Yeadon, PA). I was struck by how well-written and on point she was, in explaining what some people find so appealing about volunteering to help maintain cemeteries. I want to share her perspective with you through The Cemetery Traveler. (The link to her blog can be found at the end.)

I’ve been volunteering at Mount Moriah myself for a few years, as part of the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. (FOMMCI), and I have my own reasons for doing so. Alyssa, the Temple student, volunteered as part of the university’s civic engagement program. I’m not sure she expected the experience to be so profound. Thousands of students have taken part in this sort of community volunteer program since the FOMMCI started it in 2011, and it is obvious that many are affected in the same way Alyssa was. I’ve spoken to a number of them during cleanup events, and many share her experience.

As part of a hard day’s work, she states, “It was amazing to uncover tiny grave stones and large markers and even more thrilling to see the size of the space we helped to bring out from underneath the mess of tangled vegetation. It was also great — after learning more about the context of the cemetery clean-up — to think about the people that were buried there and know that we were helping families rediscover or simply have the ability to locate and visit deceased family members.”

Mount Moriah is at this point still about seventy-five percent overgrown with trees, vines, and other flora. Alyssa describes the situation clearly when she states, "Tombs were entombed again in brush and trees: a layer of time measured in yards of vegetation.” The cemetery is huge, recently abandoned (2011), and more recently put back on track (Sept. 17, 2014) with the legal appointment of the Mount Moriah Cemetery Preservation Corporation as receiver of the property (which now has legal custodial responsibility). However, until funding is appropriated as part of the overall plan to maintain the cemetery, Mount Moriah is still greatly dependent on volunteers.

Please check the FOMMCI website for future cleanup and restoration events. You simply cannot foresee how being part of such a community effort can benefit so many – yourself included. Also, now that it is cold out, the vegetation has mostly died and you can see much more of the cemetery than you can in summer. Come and visit! Both the Philadelphia and Yeadon sides are open from 9 a.m. to dusk.

Alyssa's blog, "Mount Moriah: A Cemetery and Its Friends," can be read here.
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. website
The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery Group on Facebook