July 18, 2019

Volunteers needed to clean up Graceland - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Volunteers needed to clean up Graceland

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Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2019 3:42 pm

The ice has melted and power has been restored, but signs of the most recent winter storm remain. Nowhere is this more evident than at Graceland Cemetery on the edge of Madison.

A tree along the fenceline was felled. Limbs with raw jagged ends block roadways and lay across graves. Smaller branches lay scattered across the grass like confetti.

On Saturday, the nonprofit's board of directors is hosting a cleanup day to rectify the situation.

"We've always asked for people to pick up sticks and rake," said Bob Ellsworth, sexton. "This year we are asking for pickups, trailers, chainsaws. Some of the limbs are bigger than what the average person can move."

The cleanup day is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Volunteers will work as long as they are able, or until the work is completed -- whichever comes first. Donuts and coffee will be served.

Ellsworth asks that volunteers report to the building inside the main gates around 9 a.m. to get organized. They are asked to bring their own yard maintenance tools, such as rakes, if possible.

Should the weather be unsuitable for the task, a rain day has been scheduled for May 4.

If community organizations would like to assist with the cleanup, but are unable to volunteer on Saturday, Ellsworth said he will work with them to find a suitable time for their efforts. He can be reached at 605-270-1050.

"We could use help at any time," Ellsworth said.

Graceland Cemetery predates Madison with graves going back to the 1870s, he said. In addition, dignitaries such as Sen. Karl E. Mundt are buried there.

The historic cemetery is still in use. Operational funds come from fees and from donations. Each year, the board sends out approximately 1,500 letters seeking financial support for grounds maintenance and other expenses.

"We do get a very good response from people who have loved ones out at Graceland," Ellsworth said.

A groundskeeper mows the lawn and also helps to maintain the serene ambience of the cemetery. However, volunteers are important, especially for the annual cleanup.

In addition to the cleanup, the cemetery board is faced with the challenge of the aging trees and the future arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer. Each year, the board attempts to remove trees, based upon what their budget allows.

"We have many, many ash trees out there," Ellsworth said.

Replacement trees will be planted around the perimeter and in other strategic areas of the cemetery.

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