Whitinsville, MA (Febraury 12, 2020) – Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BHC) has added a sixth volunteer program to its roster with the launch of the new Blackstone Heritage Corridor Cemetery Conservation Ambassadors.
Inspired by the dedication of volunteers Betty and Carlo Mencucci of Burrillville, RI, who have been restoring historic cemeteries in Burrillville for the past nine years, BHC volunteer coordinator Suzanne Buchanan saw the opportunity to attract more volunteers who had the same interests to support their work. According to Buchanan, just last spring, the Mencuccis held a Volunteer Skills Workshop on cemetery conservation at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, RI, and they filled the reception room with nearly 40 people from both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. They were soon approached by the Sutton Historical Society to host a workshop in Sutton, MA, and again they packed the room. They followed up the workshop with a hands-on program at the cemetery behind Sutton Town Hall.
Shown (left to right) Blackstone Heritage Corridor volunteers Carlo and Betty Mencucci of the Burrillville Historical & Preservation Society; Ross Weaver from Sutton Historical Society, Inc.; and new BHC volunteers Johnelle Bergeron and Greg Duhamel who volunteer at area cemeteries, including Bernon Cemetery in Woonsocket, RI.
“A few months ago I learned of another couple from Woonsocket, RI, who were volunteering to cleanup and restore the city’s St. James/Bernon Cemetery,” Buchanan shared. “Greg Duhamel and Johnelle Bergeron have spent countless hours to clean up and preserve the historical cemetery tucked in a neighborhood on Logee Street that many driving by wouldn’t even notice. They even involve Johnelle’s nine-year-old son Aidan. All of them are now official volunteers with BHC’s Volunteers-In-Parks program and are set to lead a cleanup on Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Restoration and Awareness Day on Saturday, April 11.”
Buchanan gathered the Mencuccis, Duhamel, Bergeron, and Ross Weaver from Sutton Historical Society for a meeting in late January to discuss the Cemetery Conservation Ambassadors program and how volunteers working in historical cemeteries could work together and share resources. While talking, they discovered the need for the skills of BHC’s Photography Ambassadors to photograph headstones for cataloging.
With the creation of the BHC Cemetery Conservation Ambassadors program, Buchanan hopes to attract more volunteers with an interest in preserving historical cemeteries, and also those who enjoy telling the stories about them. BHC volunteer Irene Blais from the Woonsocket Historical Society has been leading cemetery tours for BHC for the past few years, most recently last fall at Precious Blood Cemetery, and Blais has plans in the works for new tours this spring. Blais has arranged for Duhamel to give a presentation titled “Woonsocket’s Forgotten Cemeteries” on Sunday, March 29 at 1:00 p.m. in the sacristy at St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center, 84 Cumberland St., Woonsocket, RI.
A Volunteer Skills Workshop on Cemetery Conservation presented by the Mencuccis, Duhamel and Bergeron, will be held on Wednesday, April 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. at the Blackstone Valley Historical Society (1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI). This program is free and open to the public. In celebration of Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Restoration and Awareness Day on Saturday, April 11, the Mencuccis are hosting a volunteer event at Riverside Cemetery (Callahan School St., Harrisville, RI) in from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Duhamel and Bergeron are also hosting a volunteer event at St. James/Bernon Cemetery (90 Logee St., Woonsocket, RI) from 9:00 a.m. to noon. An additional cemetery cleanup project is being hosted by volunteers of the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone at the Elder Ballou Cemetery (Elder Ballou Cemetery Rd., Cumberland, RI) from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
To learn more about the Cemetery Conservation Ambassadors volunteer program and other volunteer opportunities, contact Suzanne Buchanan at 508-234-4242 or email at Volunteer@BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org. A Volunteer Open House will be held Wednesday, March 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s office at 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville, MA.
To learn more about the cemetery conservation events planned, visit the events page at BlackstoneHeritageCorridor.org.