Entergy workers preserve history through clean up

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 7, 2015

Giving back to the community through preservation is one way to remember the past by standing united in the present.

Entergy employees spent Thursday volunteering their time to help clean up the Beulah Cemetery.

The 14.5-acre cemetery has around 130 military graves at the site tucked away on the east end of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

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“This is a historic cemetery. This is the only place African Americans could be buried in the 1800s unless you had a gravesite next to your church,” said James Brown, a member of the American Legion Tyner-Ford Post No. 213 and vice president of the Beulah Historical Society.

One of the big projects they have been working on is filling in dirt on sunken graves. Many of the volunteers on Thursday were trimming limbs and burning them. In addition to that, a group was working on leveling headstones that were leaning over.

“We’re in the process of filling in graves, we’re in the process of leveling up graves, we’re in the process of cutting branches and trees down that cause a hazard,” Brown said.

Entergy employee Mark McCann, who is the diversity liaison for Baxter Wilson Power Plant, first noticed the need for cleanup at the cemetery when he attended a holiday celebration there on July 3. McCann then came back on Oct. 2 to voluntarily cleanup before the company had a picnic in the area the following day. He was then inspired to invite his coworkers to join the effort. The group of employees often looks for projects to do, and McCann saw the need here.

“The backside of the cemetery is horribly overgrown. You can’t even get to some of the gravesites,” McCann said. “There’s a pretty good crew back there that are just cutting down and cleaning out.”

Lee Alexander, production superintendent at Entergy, said he is proud to work with people who give back without having to be asked.

“This is an employee driven effort. Management doesn’t drive this. They get no reward for this other than a thank you and a pat on the back. It’s strictly a volunteer effort,” Alexander said. “It’s just a way for the employees of Entergy to give back to the community.”

Most of the volunteers came from the Baxter Wilson Power Plant with one employee driving in from Rex Brown Power Plant in Jackson. The crew had already signed up to walk with the American Heart Association in Jackson Saturday, Nov. 7, which is when the communitywide cleanup day will be held, so they came out two days early to get the project started.

“We’re trying to get a bulk of the work done with the equipment and stuff before the community comes out Saturday to work,” McCann said.

In addition to Entergy employees, there was another small group of community and restoration board members on hand to offer their services.

James Brown is a 30-year veteran who has relatives at the cemetery, which made the project important to him. He has being working on cleaning up the cemetery since 2013.

At that time, he said, the grass was grown over this head.

“I hate to see military personnel that have served their country and their graves not being taken care of,” Brown said.

Looking ahead, they want to make repairs to the collapsing fence and then make improvement section by section starting on the east end and then working to the west and south.

A group of 13 from Iowa came in on Sept. 10 to help clean headstones. Every once in a while they will also have AmeriCorps volunteers who come over to lend their efforts with the project. Brown is grateful for the groups’ positive attitudes and drive to do the job right.

“Everybody’s done a phenomenal job,” Brown said. “This is a work in progress. It’s going to take some years to accomplish what we want to accomplish, especially dealing with the fence.”

The community is invited to help with the cleaning efforts Saturday, Nov. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon. Saturday volunteers will continue to clean off graves and trim limbs.

“If you come out on Saturday, look up your family plot if you desire and clean around it. That will help us out,” Brown said.

The cleaning project runs off of donations. Anyone interested in donating can contact the Beulah Cemetery Restoration Committee through Beulah Historical Society president Yolanda Robbins at Robbins Funeral Home, 1327 Main St. or 601-636-0941.