As a funeral procession entered the massive front gates of Eden Cemetery one Saturday last month, volunteers planted red and white flowers at the entrance.
The volunteers were among 75 people who came to the cemetery to remove debris, clean headstones and restore the historic Delaware County cemetery, and cemetery officials are hoping to get more help tomorrow and next Saturday.
Vandalism has been a problem at Eden Cemetery for years. "Eden is caught in the middle of a playground and a residential area," said general manager Mina Cockroft. "It is convenient for them to go through Eden and as a result of the trespassing you have vandalism that has occurred."
Todd Bernstein, founder of Global Citizen, which is affiliated with Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service organization, reached out to Cockroft to offer assistance and 900AM WURD Radio also got on board with the Friends of Eden Cemetery partnership.
"It has been a tremendous help," said Cockroft. "Because of our limited budget, we have not been able to afford contractors to do the fence painting. Our objective is to improve the curb appeal"
Legendary opera singer Marian Anderson, civil rights leader Octavius Catto, Harlem Renaissance writer Jesse Redmond Fauset and abolitionist William Still are buried at Eden Cemetery, the oldest African American cemetery in the U.S.
"I think this cemetery is really great so I think it deserves to be cleaned, said Victoria Moffitt, 8, of Briarcliff. Moffit and her friend Ashanna Dawnson, 9, of Darby, used soap and water to clean the tombstone of Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, founder of the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church at 750 S. Broad Street.
"There's so much potential to restore this sacred place to the level of prominence it really richly deserves," said Bernstein.