Edgewood Cemetery’s small, all-volunteer board, which serves as a “Friends of the Cemetery” organization for the Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. 501 (c)3, is joining forces with Hobart’s Run to plan another community clean-up day for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 5 (raindate: Saturday, October 12).
Last year’s community clean-up day was deemed a tremendous success, with more than 100 volunteers showing up to help rake grass clippings, plant flowers, trim and mow, clean tombstones, and trim overgrown plants. Planners hope even more participants will show up this year; they encourage civic organizations to pitch in, too. Local home improvement businesses, restaurants, and various organizations also donated supplies or raffle items.
“The community spirit and friendliness of last year’s volunteers was inspiring,” said Andrew Monastra, president of the Edgewood Cemetery Board. “It was a true, grassroots community effort, and it spoke volumes about the positive energy in Pottstown. We look forward to working with even more people this year!”
Refreshments will be provided – but additional food donations will be happily accepted. Participants are encouraged to bring their own water bottles. Some tools will be provided courtesy of Hobart’s Run and The Hill School – but volunteers are asked to bring their own tools if they can, including gloves, rakes, shovels, pruning tools, brooms, weed-whackers and mowers.
Once again, local businesses and individuals will be donating items for a fundraising raffle! Additional items, from crafts to gift cards, will be welcomed with open arms. If interested in making a raffle item donation, please email Cathy Skitko at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-705-1017.
Contributions of flowers and other plants also are appreciated. Fundraising is a crucial concern, as basic grounds maintenance is an ongoing issue. Monastra notes the low bid for this season’s mowing of the 12-acre site came in at $800 per week, resulting in an estimated cost of $25,000 per season. He points out that mowing Edgewood, dating to the mid-1800s, is no simple or, therefore, inexpensive task due to neglect for many years, sinkholes, and ground damage caused by an active groundhog population.
Unfortunately, the cemetery, created in 1862, has not had an official individual owner since the 1930s. The last individual who had been serving as caretaker essentially abandoned the cemetery around 2012 and it fell into significant neglect. Since then, the volunteer nonprofit board has attempted to raise funds to make sure the grass clipped, but increased and sustained efforts must continue to provide for mowing and achieve restoration ranging from resetting falling tombstones to clearing debris and maintaining pathways.
The 2018 clean-up day and fundraising effort raised $3,800 in donations, in addition to $2,500 contributed by Harlan “Bud” Wendell, a resident of Menlo Park, Calif., and a Hill class of 1942 graduate with family ties to John Potts, founder of Pottstown.
Hobart’s Run and The Hill School contributed $5,000 toward mowing during the summer of 2018 and matched that $5,000 amount again in July 2019.
A few additional donations have trickled in over the past year, and a small-scale clean-up was promoted to volunteers this past spring.
Needless to say, while the generosity of Wendell’s and other donors’ contributions and volunteer efforts are immensely appreciated, “with a $25,000-per-season mowing bill, our need for financial support is immediate, serious, and ongoing,” Monastra said. “We need to show our respect to those who are buried there and their families. We also want to be sure Edgewood’s condition does not become a distraction to the fantastic economic and community development efforts in the Borough.
“We also envision creating areas for contemplation and remembrance – with benches and flowers – for those who visit loved ones here as well as other community members who want to walk on these public grounds,” Monastra continued, noting that keeping up with the grass has been the pressing priority.
“We greatly appreciate those who have helped in some way, and, going forward, we would like to recognize substantial donors by installing benches bearing their names, or a plaque thanking them for supporting the cemetery,” Monastra suggested.
Citing the prominent location of the cemetery along High Street — in close proximity to business revitalization efforts occurring downtown as well as the bike lanes and Schuylkill River Trail – Monastra hopes business owners as well as individuals will contribute to the cemetery’s fund for maintaining and improving the property.
The Board also welcomes organization-based fundraising to benefit the cemetery. Recently Monastra was contacted by an individual interested in organizing a golf outing to benefit Edgewood – and he enthusiastically welcomes all fundraising ideas and offers of support.
The Board asks area residents who have family members buried in the cemetery to share their contact information, so that the Board can keep them informed about progress and developments with Edgewood’s maintenance.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to Edgewood Historic Cemetery, Inc. and sent to 740 E. High St., Pottstown, PA. Individuals interested in volunteering, learning more about the cemetery’s efforts, or providing family information can contact Andrew Monastra at email@example.com or 484-459-5412.