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Cemetery volunteers cut, clean

NATCHEZ — The green grass grows faster than the green in the bank for the Worthy Women of Watkins Street Cemetery.

Organization treasurer Dorothy Sanders pushed a lawnmower through knee-high grass during a workday Saturday at the cemetery. Sanders said donations don’t come regularly enough for the organization to keep the 17-acre cemetery maintained.

“We’ve only had the funds to have it completely cut two-and-a-half times this year,” Sanders said. “A lot of what we depend on is volunteer labor, but we have to have the money to buy gas and oil to run the equipment.”

Saturday, Sanders was joined by five other volunteers who worked to get the front section of the cemetery cut, trimmed and raked. But Sanders said sometimes it feels like she’s fighting a losing battle.

“By the time we can get the back done, the front has already grown up like this,” she said.

Sanders began cutting her grandmother’s burial plot in 1987 and, as needed, she’d cut the plots around it. In 2005, Worthy Women of Watkins Street Cemetery formed to raise money and awareness of the historic cemetery.

Sanders said it is one of the oldest black cemeteries in Mississippi; it was formed in 1909.

“This is our heritage,” she said. “I don’t want to let it be forgotten.”

The cemetery is the final resting place for veterans, victims of the Rhythm Night Club fire and many Natchez families, Sanders said.

And the Worthy Women want to make sure those loved ones have a maintained resting place.

“As long as we can and as much as we can, we will work,” she said. “Our donations don’t come in regularly so we don’t know we are going to have $500 this month or $300 next month. Sometime we’ll only get $100 in during a quarter.

Monetary donations, as well as volunteers, equipment, oil and gas, dirt and other supplies are needed.

“We need everything you use in landscaping, except for grass,” Sanders said.

Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 17893, Natchez, MS 39121. For more information call Sanders at 601-445-9431.

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