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AmeriCorps volunteers beautify Beulah

When a pledge is made to serve a community, it’s carried out through the end.

While the final destination for 150 AmeriCorps volunteers from the Pacific region is Louisiana for FEMA-related and disaster relief tasks, they stopped through Vicksburg to help beautify Beulah Cemetery.

Monday, about 70 volunteers suited up to cut down tree limbs and set them ablaze. They put in a full day of work as vans arrived around 10 a.m. and finished at 4 p.m.

James Brown, vice president of the Beulah Restoration Committee, approached the Vicksburg office and requested volunteers for help.

“For the next two days they’ll work with me out here,” Brown said. “Then they’re going to do some training in the classroom. Maybe next month I’ll get another group out to assist.”

Brown said in the past, volunteers helped scrub tombstones. He added that there are hundreds of graves in the cemetery that are sunk into the ground, and he said fixing them is a two or three year project.

Without ties to the city of Vicksburg, AmeriCorps volunteers Katie Nicholson, Nicole Dingess and Kierra Abdul still treated this community as their own and were proud of their group for their work.

“We know how important this is to the community. They really wanted us to come in and clear it out,” Nicholson said. “It’s good for us to come in and see the progress we do and help the community out in that way.”

Dingess took pride in helping restore honor to the cemetery comprised of veterans.

“It’s a great respect and honor to them,” Dingess said. “If anyone is related to these fallen people then it’s very respectful to clean up so they can come and show their last respects.”

Abdul said it was a great experience and her team did well with everything they were asked to do.

“It’s good to see the progress that’s gone on here,” Abdul said.

The trio didn’t allow the motions of tiring labor work to prevent them from learning about a piece of Vicksburg and its military cemetery.

Nicholson learned at one point, Beulah was the only cemetery where African-American veterans were buried, while Dingess and Abdul learned the cemetery’s importance as a national landmark.

“I’m proud of my team. Everyone’s been working really well together and communicating pretty well,” Dingess said.

The ultimate goal for the cemetery’s restoration committee is bring it back to a place where people can visit loved ones.

When Brown first came to Vicksburg in 2014, the grass in the cemetery towered him. It is now mowed throughout the property and manageable.

At some point, Brown wants to put informational kiosks in the cemetery and around the city to give them a history of Vicksburg.

“Loved ones will be able to come out, look at this drawing and know where they’re loved ones are at,” Brown said. “We shouldn’t allow any gravesite, but dealing with veterans we shouldn’t allow them to get in this type of condition.”