Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Restored, Refurbished

news2Homeless volunteers help clean up historic Santa Cruz cemetery

Three months ago at the Evergreen Cemetery, thickets of blackberry, periwinkle and ivy obscured eroded pathways and cracked gravestones. The cemetery’s seven acres and unmatched local history were largely inaccessible.

Now, the cemetery is on its way to rejuvenation via a collaborative cleanup effort of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH), which owns the historic site, and the Homeless Services Center (HSC), which is located just blocks from the cemetery.

Every Monday for the past 12 weeks, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, volunteers from the HSC and elsewhere in the community have dug, hacked, pruned, raked and excavated campsites on their way through the graveyard. The project will continue until the cemetery’s renovation is complete in April.

Many of the volunteers at Evergreen Cemetery are homeless participants from the HSC.

“People so directly blame homelessness for problems in the Evergreen Cemetery and we’re directly responding to that by saying, ‘Actually, we’re doing what we can to improve the area,’” says Monica Martinez, executive director for the HSC.

HSC’s community services coordinator, Stephan Nelson, spearheads the cleanup project. Nelson has overseen similar programs for the HSC, such as the “Adopt a Levy” program with Save Our Shores and other neighborhood cleanups, however work at the Evergreen Cemetery is the largest cleanup effort in which the HSC has participated.  

Nelson says volunteers covered 2.5 of the cemetery’s seven acres by week 11 of the ongoing project.

“The parts that are unfinished compared to the parts that have been refurbished—it’s an amazing feat,” says Nelson, noting that cleanup efforts build momentum each week as more and more volunteers pitch in from around the community. “I believe in volunteering: it’s a tool to bring the community together as a whole. … Everyone is welcome.”

Martinez says the project is a win-win, as it helps homeless volunteers find purpose, while assisting the MAH and larger Santa Cruz community.

“This community services team is part of our model to help people rebuild their sense of self, their sense of dignity,” she says. “You lose that when you’re homeless. You don’t have a place where you belong or have to be. … Providing people with something to do helps them rebuild that sense of purpose. Participants who regularly volunteer at the cemetery have this extreme sense of pride and achievement, and they’re learning about the history of the cemetery.”

As one of the oldest cemeteries in the nation, Evergreen’s plots represent the various communities that arrived in Santa Cruz in the 1800s before California was part of the union.

“The first burial there was in 1850,” says Sibley Simon, who works with the MAH to oversee Evergreen Cemetery’s rehabilitation. “The two most famous people buried there are Louden Nelson, who’s famous locally, and Isaac Graham, who’s another major historical figure in this area and played a part in California becoming independent from Mexico.”

news2-2Stephan Nelson of the Homeless Services Center (left) and Sibley Simon, from the Museum of Art & History, co-lead a volunteer clean-up effort at the Evergreen Cemetery. The cemetery’s maintenance has been overlooked for a number of years due to lack of available time and funding on part of the MAH. While there were a few helpful short-term efforts to spruce up the grounds in recent years, Simon says the HSC volunteers’ ongoing participation is making strides that were not possible in the past.

“It’s been thrilling to have their level of energy on the project,” he says, adding that he got the idea from current Santa Cruz mayor, Don Lane, who mentioned a partnership between the MAH and HSC last fall. “So I picked it up and ran with it, and contacted homeless services,” says Simon.

Lane recalls thinking that each organization could benefit from putting their heads together.  

“I think the community needs to find new ways to deal with the problem of homelessness,” says Lane. “I’m not trying to divert the city government away from all the basic functions it needs to take on, I’m just trying to use the opportunity I have as mayor to raise an issue and get people talking and thinking about it, and maybe doing something about it.”

The MAH plans to have an “opening day” on Saturday, April 21 to celebrate the progress that is happening at the cemetery.

“We want to show people in the community all the work we’ve done there, and then share our plans for going forward,” Simon says. “We’re going to give a tour that shares some of the history, tell some stories of some of the folks buried there, and also recognize the volunteers.”

Simon adds that groundskeeping efforts are the first of several steps to sprucing up the historic site. Future plans include repairs of fences and steps, drainage improvements overseen by the City of Santa Cruz, and restoration of individual plots with broken headstones.

Once restoration is complete, tasks will include the installation of informational signs and an audio tour that tell the story along the cemetery’s haunting paths.

Photo: Jesse Clark

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by Dawn Bowman, January 18, 2012
What a great idea!! Thank You to all the homeless people for helping to clean the Evergreen.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management