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The State of Volunteers

August 2, 2011

Secluded Forest A

Volunteers. There are never enough words, or never the right words, to thank them for what they do. One of Elmwood's volunteers says that he is honored to be allowed to volunteer at an institution such as Elmwood. It's true that we're all humbled by the beauty and history of the place, but it's truly the staff's honor to be surrounded by such capable, committed, wonderful people. 

Take Ava Wilks Morgan, for instance. Ava is a teacher and a friend of Elmwood. The staff knew that the cemetery needed lesson plans to give to teachers who wanted to bring their students out for a history tour, but we had no idea how to create lesson plans. We asked Ava. She agreed, and her lesson plans can be found at http://www.elmwoodcemetery/education. Free to all teachers, by the way.

Then there's Paul Johnson, a member of Elmwood's newly formed Handyman Guild, who built a new trap door to the crawlspace under the Cottage. There's Bruce Ralston, who lives in a close-by neighborhood and who has donated many hours and many gallons of weed and ivy killer to the cemetery. There's Jimmy Ogle, Cathi Johnson, and Tommy Wilson: these three are playing an instrumental role in the creation of a new volunteer program that will be unveiled in January of 2012. 

There is Vincent Astor, a long time friend of Elmwood, who partnered up with Donald Harrison, to create a play based on the lives of Thomas Dickins and Wade Bolton, and who have performed this play at Elmwood. The men have also taken their show on the road, promoting this cemetery at every stop.

There's Nick Bridgeman, the most recent president of the West Tennessee Urban Forestry Council, who spent many hours over the course of many Saturdays at Elmwood. He trimmed trees. He identified trees. He coordinated an effort to re-certify Elmwood as a Level II Arboretum with the state. He's moving to Knoxville now, but his contributions will not be forgotten.

There's Ed Williams, Shelby County Historian, who, on August 19th, will be at Elmwood to relate the story of "Forrest's Raid On Memphis" with veteran actors/volunteers Alan Doyle and Lee Millar. There's Jim Dennis, who is the Staff Gardener, and who nevertheless volunteers giving history tours of the cemetery when asked. Judy Dennis happens to be the volunteer who transcribed the original 1852 Board of Trustees Minutes Book into a Word document so that the staff can now easily search the book without having to strain their eyes through page after page of incredibly difficult to read, Victorian style script.

There are groups of volunteers, too. The Forrest Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans spent many hot hours this summer raking the Confederate Veterans lot in the Fowler section of Elmwood. Clean Memphis, a local nonprofit organization committed to making Memphis a more beautiful place to live, has brought youth groups from all over the United States to Elmwood to perform neighborhood clean up events.  There is the East Dudley Business Association who have performed countless clean ups along Dudley Street, Sledge Avenue, Walker Avenue, Neptune Street, and East Street. 

This is a partial, incomplete, and short (yes, short) blog post about the contributions of volunteers at Elmwood. The Board of Trustees, the staff, and most importantly, the families and friends of Elmwood thank each of you for your generosity.

If you are interested in contributing your time and talent to Elmwood but aren't sure how to go about it, or if you'd like to chip in but are concerned that you don't have enough time to make a difference, please email Cookie Swain at cookie [at] elmwoodcemetery [dot] org and ask if you can help. There is plenty to do at Elmwood, and there are plenty of ways to do it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

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