Help Heal Mother Earth -- Day of Service Projects Target Panola Mountain State Park Mt. Olive African-American Cemetery

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Tens of thousands of volunteers across the Southeastern United States are getting out of their comfortable lounge chairs and couches and leaving their television sets behind to participate in a day of service on April 24th. Over 400 projects have been registered at http://www.dayofservice.org.

"It is wonderful to see diverse groups coalesce for the purpose of lifting and serving." President George Parker, Jonesboro

Usually when someone says “get out” it may not be that pleasant, but next Saturday, April 24th, may prove to be different when hundreds of thousands leave their comfortable homes and lounge chairs, the couches and television sets to “get out” and participate in a day of service across the Southeastern United States. Over 400 projects have been registered at http://www.dayofservice.org for the 2nd annual “Helping Hands and Linking Arms Day of Service” sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly known as the Mormons.

April 24th signals the end of Earth Week and many of the Day of Service projects center around healing Mother Earth as civic and faith-based organizations link arms to lend helping hands in the cleanup of parks, rivers, schools, and communities.

Panola Mountain State Park in Georgia

At the Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge, Georgia, volunteers from LDS congregations are partnering for earth Day celebrations with work parties from Rivers Alive, Boy Scouts of America Troop 106, the Filipino American Association, and the First United Methodists of McDonough.

Jody Rice, Resource Manager at Panola Mountain, who worked tirelessly with the organizers, said “After the recent floods, some of the lowlands were 40 feet under water. The confluence of rivers brought with it an unprecedented amount of debris. Combine that with long-ago illegal dumping, we really need to help the environment out here. Once we decided it was worth it to clean it up, there was no going back.”

In canoes and johnboats, the volunteers will be cleaning up the South River in this National Natural Landmark which has delicate ecological features as part of the 44,000 acres of green-space in metro Atlanta.

Vern Klenz, Chief of Volunteers at Panola Mountain State Park, recognizes the value of this incredible day. “With the state budget, the way things are, we need volunteers more than ever. The park belongs to all of us and we greatly appreciate all the volunteers who want to come help. You know, it’s not hard work; it’s just great work to clean up the park. All the organizations take pride in keeping it up.”

Mt. Olive African-American Union Soldier and Slave Cemetery in Kentucky

In years past, the Mt. Olive Civil War Cemetery was referred to as The Old African Cemetery, or the Slave Cemetery. The Cemetery is the resting place to some of the town’s earliest African American Union Soldiers as well as former slaves, both women and children. The oldest known grave is from 1817.

Geneva Bell, current president of the Mt. Olive Historical Preservation Society and a passionate advocate of restoring the Mt. Olive Cemetery to its original state, said that “only 200 graves of the 1300 plus souls believed to be buried there have been identified.”

When Dr. Dan Fredrick, Paleontologist at Austin Peay University, located in Clarksville, heard about the project to restore the Mt. Olive Cemetery and the need to identify graves, he volunteered to help with his recently acquired SIR 20, an electric magnetic wave ground penetrating system.

SIR 20 has a computer attached to what looks a little like a bicycle. SIR 20 is slowly rolled over a grid approximately 9 feet by 21 feet. Even though it will take time to cover the entire 7.3 acres, Dr. Fredrick is determined to identify all of the graves with the help of his students. As the graves are identified, they are marked with small flags that stick up through the vinca vine carpeting the ground beneath trees that stand as sentinels over those buried there.

On April 24th, over 800 volunteers from the LDS Church, the Mt. Olive Preservation Society, and the community will be making Dr. Frederick’s work easier by clearing trees and brush, cleaning out gullies, building a bridge to access the back of the cemetery, making and mulching walking paths, and installing benches and bird houses for meditation areas.

Thanks to the Day of Service efforts, a page of history can be written that will include those forgotten souls who are now alive in the hearts and minds of those participating on this Day of Service, and soon in the minds of all who visit Mt. Olive.    

George Parker, president over several LDS congregations, said, “It is wonderful to see diverse groups coalesce for the purpose of lifting and serving. People from churches, service organizations, governments and businesses are uniting to do what Jesus Christ taught us nearly 2000 years ago, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ (Matt 22:39). At a time when there is so much greed and evil in the world there are still good people everywhere that are willing to reach out to their neighbor to love them and serve them. I hope this is just a start of something that will grow to be so much bigger in the future. I believe it pleases the Lord to see His children helping one another.”

For more information on projects from Hopkinsville, Kentucky to Miami, Florida and from Texarkana, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina, visit http://www.DayofService.org or call 770-923-0883.

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