Lately there has been quite the buzz about town in regard to the appearance of Union Cemetery. Several St. Clairsville community members and I have taken it upon ourselves to investigate the situation and attempt to help resolve it. In a pinch, Commissioner Ginny Favade was able to secure some volunteers from Oakview Juvenile Residential Center to assist in the cleanup efforts. A plethora of donations poured in so that we were able to feed these young men and the staff that supervised. Much was accomplished in the short two days that they were available to help at Union Cemetery. It was obvious that there was a genuine community concern and desire to contribute to the cause, so several of we concerned community members attended the most recent meeting of the Board of Directors for the cemetery to show our support, get answers to our questions, and brainstorm ideas as to how to help.
At this meeting, I learned so much about our cemetery. Just to name a few of these things did you know that Union Cemetery is a private cemetery? Were you aware that Dan Hutchinson is the lone superintendent for a cemetery that spans 45 acres? Who knew that Union Cemetery was that large?! This means one single man is responsible for mowing; weed eating; debris removal; opening and closing of gravesites; road maintenance; equipment maintenance, and so much more. He previously had an apprentice, but as of June 1st, Dan has been working alone. And did you know that it takes an average of seven traditional burials each month just to cover the overhead costs? There has been an increase in cremations, which means less traditional burials are occurring. Therefore, fewer lots are being sold, and it would take fourteen cremation burials each month to cover the basic costs of running the cemetery. Because there is only one superintendent for the entire cemetery, when there is a funeral, his day is spent opening and closing the gravesite(s), which means no other work can be accomplished. The cemetery had previously relied on the volunteer help it received from the local prison, but in recent years, that support has been cut. These are just a snippet of the things that I was unaware of prior to attending this meeting.
Several people who know that I have jumped on board with the efforts at Union Cemetery have approached me and mentioned the Perpetual Care Fund. Well, I didn't know until the Board Meeting that this Perpetual Care Fund is meant for the care, maintenance, and operation of the cemetery after all available lots have been sold. Laws have been passed in recent years that prohibit cemeteries from using the principle monies in this fund until the cemetery has sold all available lots on the property. It is possible to spend the interest only at the present time, and based on the principle of the account, that allows for only about $400 each month that can be used. The Perpetual Care Fund is not able to be used for general maintenance and operational expenses until there are no more available lots on the grounds.
Dan Hutchinson and his family have taken phenomenal care of our Union Cemetery for decades, but just like any other business venture, there are financial peaks and valleys. We happen to be in the midst of a shadowy valley at the present time. I commend Dan and the Board for their hard work and dedication through it all, and I do believe that these folks are an asset to our community. However, I do believe that this is a time when the community must step up and help those that care for our deceased loved ones.
I challenge every single one of you reading this letter to join our crusade to save Union Cemetery from a dark fate, and make a donation of time or money to the cemetery. Attend the next board meeting, spend some time volunteering to help with the general cleanup, donate food or drinks to those that do give Dan a hand with some of the manual labor, or give a monetary donation towards the maintenance and operations of Union Cemetery.
Those of us that have taken on the task of aiding the Board and Dan are committed to arranging a Volunteer Day, complete with lunches; organizing a donation drive and other fundraisers; researching potential grants; and attending Board meetings. I encourage everyone to get involved. You may not have a loved one in the cemetery now, but someday you may, or you may choose Union Cemetery as your own eternal resting place. To join in our community efforts, please do not hesitate to contact me at laceyshanks12@ gmail.com, leave a message at (740) 272-6088, or join our Facebook page at www.facebook. com/ConcernedCitizensForUnionCemetery. Monetary donations for maintenance and operational costs can be made payable to Union Cemetery and mailed to the cemetery at 211 Maple Ave., St Clairsville. Any and all donations are tax deductible as the cemetery is a nonprofit association.
So much history lies within that cemetery, and so many of our friends and family are laid to rest there. You and I cannot sit by idly and wait for someone else to rush in and save the cemetery from financial ruin. Take a moment to thank Dan for his backbreaking work and relentless dedication; send a donation, even if it is just a few dollars; attend the September Board meeting. This is your opportunity to make a difference in your community, make an impact and be proactive. Charles Dickens said, "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." Take time to lighten this burden today.
Dan, thank you for all you have done and continue to do. You are a wealth of knowledge, and you go above and beyond to help those that need it. It is our turn to repay the countless favors you have bestowed upon so many families.