Vol­un­teers across Newton clean up aban­doned ceme­tery

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­news.com

Vol­un­teers were out in force Mon­day, hon­or­ing the mem­ory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by try­ing to im­prove their com­mu­nity.

Around 100 vol­un­teers turned out to clean up an aban­doned ceme­tery on Ridge Road, while dozens of oth­ers helped give out food, cloth­ing and toi­letries to those in need at Solid Rock Bap­tist Church.

Fred John­son, who or­ga­nized the ceme­tery ef­fort, said the group cleaned up about 80 per­cent of the ceme­tery, which he had de­scribe as “de­plorable” last week. Vol­un­teers cut down hun­dreds of trees and filled in sunken graves with 18 tons of dirt. John­son said the ceme­tery looks much bet­ter, but there’s still work to be done there and at other ceme­ter­ies around the county.

“Th­ese ceme­ter­ies are aban­doned, and it doesn’t look like any­one cares any­thing about them. They put peo­ple out there and for­get about it,” John­son said. “It’s im­por­tant (to clean them up), and we’re not go­ing to stop now if I have any­thing to do with it.”

For­mer county com­mis­sioner Monty Laster has doc­u­mented around 270 ceme­ter­ies in Newton County, and as the last sur­viv­ing of the county’s ceme­tery com­mit­tee, he’d be happy for the help.

Laster and John­son were joined in the cleanup by sev­eral area res­i­dents and churches, stu­dents from Ox­ford and Ge­or­gia Perime­ter col­leges and sev­eral lo­cal elected of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing county Com- mis­sioner Lanier Sims, county Chair­man Keith El­lis, school board mem­ber Ed­die John­son and Sher­iff Ezell Brown, who per­son­ally paid for lunch for the group.

Mean­while, lo­cal non­profit Hands on Newton con­tin­ued its an­nual tra­di­tion of host­ing vol­un­teer projects by gath­er­ing and dis­tribut­ing food, win­ter cloth­ing and toi­letries. The group col­lected around 100 pounds of food and pro­vided clothes to about 20 to 30 res­i­dents.

Any­thing that wasn’t given away was given to The Sal­va­tion Army or the Solid Rock Cloth­ing Closet and the Will­ing Helpers Food Pantry, also at Solid Rock Bap­tist.

In ad­di­tion, lo­cal stu­dents cut up mag­a­zines to cre­ate lap-sit books – very ba­sic pic­ture books that help chil­dren de­velop vo­cab­u­lary be­fore they be­gin at­tend­ing school – that will be used to go in “lit­tle free li­braries” that Hands on Newton is hop­ing to place around the county.

Hands on Newton Di­rec­tor Mol­lie Melvin said she’s look­ing for vol­un­teers to man the li­braries. Call Melvin at 770-330-7405 or email hand­son­new­ton@ya­hoo.com to vol­un­teer or for more info.

Fi­nally, sev­eral lo­cals won some pres­ti­gious lo­cal awards. The Rev. Ron­nie Brannen, pas­tor of Prospect United Methodist Church, won the “I Have a Dream” Award, lo­cal his­to­rian Emo­gene Wil­liams won the Trail­blazer Award and lo­cal stu­dent Ralph Brown won the Young Dreamer Award. The News will have more on th­ese win­ners in a fu­ture edi­tion.

Dar­rell Everidge/The Cov­ing­ton News

Com­mu­nity mem­bers came out to clean up a small ceme­tery off Ridge Road on Mon­day in an event spon­sored by the African-Amer­i­can His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion of Newton County and Team Sports and Signs.

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