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Smaller Cemeteries Struggle With Upkeep and Grounds Maintenance

by Staff

in Funerals

When cemeteries are vandalized, unless the culprits are caught and forced to pay restitution, the cost of repairing the damage to the headstones, pathways and lawn comes out of the cemetery’s budget. This might work out okay if the cemetery is large and affiliated with a local church or cemetery association, but when the damage occurs in a small, non-profit cemetery, the results can be devastating.

The headlines are the same across the United States – small cemeteries, especially those run by non-profit organizations are struggling just to pay for basic upkeep. Most people don’t realize that the people who mow the lawns, pull the weeds and dig the graves are, in most cases, employed by the cemetery itself – they do not work for free, and are not volunteers. On top of that, the cemetery has to pay for the tools used, which includes gasoline for the lawn mowers and digging machinery. Even hand tools have to be paid for and properly maintained, or they will eventually fall to pieces. All of this has to come out of the cemetery’s operating budget, and when the budget shrinks or is hit by unexpected expenses, problems arise.

Due to the dual drop in plot sales and donations, many of these cemeteries are truly hurting. When they can’t pay for gas for the lawn mower, the grass starts to grow over the graves, and then the weeds start to sprout and knock the headstones out of place. Eventually the cemetery will look run down and unused, which irritates the people who have loved ones buried there, and prevents new plot sales from taking place. Plot sales dropped mostly due to cremation, which is less expensive and more environmentally friendly, and donations are down because of the economy. Once a cemetery can’t afford basic maintenance, their only hope is for either a large donation, or a series of volunteers from civic organizations like the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.

Something to think of the next time tales of cemetery vandalism show up in the media.

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