Help needed for Edgewood Cemetery cleanup
POTTSTOWN >> Volunteers from creative master gardeners to weekend warrior weed-whackers and friends who can rake, sweep, or dig are being sought to join in a maintainence effort for the historic 12-acre Edgewood Cemetery in the middle of the borough.
Organizers from Pottstown CARES and Hobart’s Run have planned a community-wide “Stop Complaining, Start Caring for Edgewood Cemetery Day” on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. and running until about 3 p.m. The rain date will be Saturday, Oct. 27.
Pottstown citizens are encouraged to volunteer at the 12-acre cemetery for a few hours or the whole day, by raking, weed-whacking, mowing, planting flowers, and participating in other improvement projects while learning about the cemetery and its fascinating background from local historians.
Additionally, an anonymous Hill School alumnus has pledged an additional $2,500 toward the Edgewood fund — with the condition that Pottstown community members pitch in and raise $2,500 in matching funds by Dec.1.
Individuals who wish to make a tax-deductible contribution to benefit the cemetery and help obtain the match can do by sending a check made out to Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. to 740 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464; please note that the contribution is toward the matching gift.
Hobart’s Run recently made a $5,000 donation toward Edgewood grounds maintenance — one of several contributions Hill has made since the cemetery’s abandonment — but, to sustain this community resting place, there is a tremendous, ongoing need for volunteers and financial contributions from throughout Pottstown.
Unfortunately, the cemetery, created in 1862, has not had an official individual owner since the 1930s. The individual who had been serving as caretaker essentially abandoned the cemetery around 2012. Since then, a volunteer nonprofit board has attempted to raise funds, keep the grass mowed, and conduct other maintenance, but there is no doubt that increased and sustained efforts must continue to achieve restoration ranging from resetting tombstones to clearing debris and maintaining pathways.
Hobart’s Run and CARES are assisting Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. volunteers with ongoing planning for this “bring your own tools” grounds improvement effort on Oct. 20.
There will be an opportunity to share ideas for physical improvements, financial sustainability and fundraisers, and volunteer coordination. Various items also will be available through a raffle.
Refreshments will be available; the committee also invites participants to bring food donations to share in fellowship with other concerned citizens. Also, volunteers should bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket if desired.
Andrew Monastra and his wife, Sue, have been doing the lion’s share of physical work at the cemetery, with help from a landscaping company hired through the Hobart’s Run donation and other contributions.
“As a community, we need to come together on this issue,” Monastra said at a recent presentation at the Pottstown Historical Society, where local historian Michael Snyder shared a fascinating illustrated lecture about the cemetery and the people buried there.
“This is a shared, Pottstown community-wide concern. The cemetery belongs to all of us who care about how we are treating the people who are interred there as well as those who care about what the condition of Edgewood says about Pottstown as a whole,” Monastra said.
“Eventually, we need a long-term plan for Edgewood to be self-sustaining, but in the meantime, we need volunteers who consistently help with maintenance; we also need lawn mowing equipment, and money that can be used to provide the means to care for the grounds,” Monastra added. “We’d like to not only keep the grass mowed; we’d like to create beautiful garden spaces for meditation. But a few volunteers cannot do it all.”
“We greatly appreciate the help we are receiving from The Hill School and Hobart’s Run — and we also know this cemetery belongs to all of Pottstown, and all of Pottstown should be stepping up,” Monastra said.
Cathy Skitko, senior director of institutional public relations and Hobart’s Run communications, recently joined the Board of Edgewood Historic Cemetery.
“The cemetery falls within the boundaries of our Hobart’s Run neighborhood improvement area,” she said, “and Hobart’s Run and The Hill School want to see it restored and maintained, as demonstrated through our financial gifts and other support to date.
“However, The Hill’s resources must be committed, first and foremost, to its educational mission,” she continued. “The school is willing to be involved with the cemetery as a member of the Pottstown community, but serving as the sole caretaker of a cemetery in perpetuity, as some residents have suggested, is outside our mission and not the reason the School receives funds
from students’ parents and alumni,” she explained.
“Nonetheless, we are committed to helping Edgewood Historic Cemetery as a community partner, and we look forward to seeing Edgewood gain support for their excellent efforts,” she added. “Hobart’s Run is addressing a range of priorities that include fostering a clean, safe, and inclusive neighborhood and encouraging positive residential and commercial improvements. We are investing significant efforts toward assisting Edgewood, raising awareness of
this community issue, and embracing this collaboration with Andrew and other caring Pottstown citizens,
much as we do through a variety of other Hobart’s Run partnerships.”
Individuals who would like to volunteer for this community engagement endeavor, engage in regular caretaking, and/or make a tax-deductible gift should contact Andrew Monastra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-323-7436. Financial contributions can be made to Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. and mailed to 740 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA 19464.
The organization also would welcome donations of working equipment such as lawn tractors, mowers, and weed-whackers, as well as hand tools. They would especially welcome donation of a 360-degree turning mower as well as funds toward purchasing such equipment.
Much of the work on Pottstown CARES Day was focused on cleaning up the sidewalk along High Street in front of Edgewood Cemetery.
Hill School volunteers gather after spending Pottstown CARES Day working at Edgewood Cemetery.
Local attorney Andrew Monastra, who is organizing the caretaking of Edgewood
Hill School volunteers at Edgewood Cemetery on Pottstown CARES Day.
Not all the volunteers who helped out at Edgewood Cemetery on Pottstown CARES Day were students.
A Hill School volunteer cuts grass at Edgewood Cemetery on Pottstown CARES Day.