‘These people need to be taken care of’: Volunteers restore fountain at Woodland Cemetery
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As the days go by, one of the most historic Black cemeteries in Richmond is starting to shape up.
“These people need to be taken care of,” Marvin Harris, executive director of the Woodland Restoration Foundation, said.
“[I] came across Woodland and Evergreen cemeteries back then - never seen cemeteries like that,” John Shuck, volunteer coordinator with the foundation, said.
“When you looked around at the headstones, about 99% of them you couldn’t even see,” Harris added.
As of Wednesday, nearly 30,000 graves have been cleared from brush and overgrown weeds. The focus shifted this week near the heart of the cemetery, where the fountain is being restored.
“To have this historic site here tells a story about some of the people interred. The prominent ones and the ones that actually made Richmond,” Harris said.
“Here we have [Rev.] John Jasper, who founded Sixth Mt. Zion Church here in Richmond. There [are] several pastors. We’ve got a sculpture buried here,” Shuck said.
Famed tennis star, Arthur Ashe, is also buried at Woodland Cemetery.
Riverside Brick, A to Z Construction, Anytime Plumbing and Liquid Ink donated materials for the fountain while volunteers lent a helping hand. Volunteers also credit Henrico County for financial support.
“It really makes you feel very, very good to know that you are doing work like this and keeping the history alive. But I’ve got to tell you, we’re going to need some youth out here to carry the torch from this point on,” Harris said.
He’s also calling on descendants to connect with the foundation to help with restoration efforts. Only 200 descendants of the 30,000 people buried there have reached out.
Harris hopes to add an arch and cement walkways in the near future.
He says an educational center to teach visitors about those buried there and their contributions to the city of Richmond is in the works.
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