The Smullins Cemetery

A Peacemaking Project by Jack S.

What is the injustice we are solving?

The township in our community has been maintaining multiple private cemeteries for many years, but recently they have been struggling to continue to maintain these due to lack of resources, money, manpower, and time. Our thought is if we can clean the Smullin's Cemetery up and make it easier to keep up with, the township will continue to preserve the cemetery. The reason we chose this particular cemetery is because there are veterans buried there as well as other people who deserve respect. The current status of the graveyard is tipped over stones, sunken in graves, weeds that include thorns, no sign to mark the cemetery, and the sadness of a deserted cemetery. We are hoping to change most of these issues through the help of this grant.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of forgotten veterans that do not have a well-kept place after death,
we will address the maintenance of a small cemetery containing US veterans
by cleaning the gravestones, improving the landscape and marking the cemetery.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Our ultimate project goal is to revive Smullins Cemetery back into a well maintained, respectful and peaceful resting place for our local veterans.
  • Another goal we have is to mark the existence of the cemetery with a sign because for years it has gone unnoticed.
  • We plan to draw the communities attention to the cemetery so it encourages others to step up to the plate and consider helping to maintain not only this particular cemetery but any cemetery in need.
  • Finally, to gain information on who is buried at the cemetery is our last goal.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

We will increase our compassion by educating ourselves on who actually is buried there and to learn a little bit about each of them. We will be respectful to all those who are buried there, for a majority of them served our country.

How will you show courage?

I will show courage by stepping up and becoming a leader. I can also show courage by explaining to others the importance of maintaining cemeteries.

How will you collaborate with others?

My collaboration will start by assembling a group of students from my school to volunteer their time to help clean up and restore the cemetery. I also will be collaborating with our local township supervisors.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

I will know when I am moving in the right direction as my plan solidifies and starts into motion. As the cemetery becomes neater I think my entire group and myself will all know we are moving in the right direction.

Key Steps

  • 1. Contact students to volunteer time.
  • 2. Contact township supervisors to establish a plan. The township has agreed to provide us dirt to spread over sunken in graves.
  • 3. Make a list of things to accomplish at the cemetery. We need to purchase a sign to mark the cemetery, mulch, perennials, garbage bags, and disposable gloves.
  • 4. Gather supplies to achieve our goals.
  • 5. Send a reminder to the volunteer students.
  • 6. Get to work!
  • After we finish all of the cleaning, we will need to set our sign up.
  • Once all the steps are completed, we will be able to say that we revived the Smullins Cemetery.

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

This project was a very depressing and sad experience. Our team worked hard to make things right for the people that are deceased in the Smullin Cemetery by trying to correct the injustice to them. Once we all arrived and talked about what we wanted to accomplish, we decided to walk around to see who all was buried there and look at the information we had printed off the internet about the people buried there. When we were walking it became clear this was a big job. We all were upset with how the cemetery looked, but more upset that this had happened. These were our veterans and we felt they were overlooked.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

It was interesting how our community has looked at this project. Within hours of the sign being put up (we were still there working) a man and his wife showed up because they were driving around looking for ancestors. They said they saw the sign so they figured they would stop to see if they had any family there. The neighbors in the area stopped by to talk about the cemetery. Community members started researching the cemetery. A local article was written about this project and now even more people are interested in this cemetery. I believe this project started the beginning of a community step up to help take care of this cemetery.

How many people were impacted by your project?

152

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

I came up with the number of 152 people by first of all the 40 people who rest in the cemetery. Then I added up all of the people who volunteered in my group and the family members and friends that they have talked to about this project. The township supervisors, neighbors, people who have talked to my parents, teachers in my school, and other students at my school who have mentioned this project. This does not include the people who read the article that was published or the people at PeaceFirst who took the time to award me this grant. I believe the number exceeds 152, but I had to give a number that I truly had a rough idea about.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

Our team did research online and in person to find out more about the people buried at the Smullin Cemetery. We went online to findagrave.com, pa-roots.com, our local historical society book called, "Voices from the Valley" and talked to local people who had some knowledge about the families and property.

What did your team learn?

We learned a great deal. We learned who all was buried in the Smullin Cemetery, where they were to be located in the cemetery (some gravestones were not in the right location - example in the stream or tossed behind a tree), their ages, how they died, who were veterans, photos of some of the people, their war stories, that there were 5 civil war veterans buried there, and the namesake Smullin Cemetery (Fletcher Smullin) was a prisoner of war for over 11 months in Andersonville.

What challenges did your team overcome?

The challenges our team overcame were moving tombstones to their rightful places, digging up tombstones that were fully covered with grass over them, marking the cemetery so people could find it, and leveling out sunken in grave sites.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

I recruited over a dozen volunteers to help to complete this project. Together we were able to make progress in the cemetery and get others talking about the importance of maintaining it. We did an interview with a local news website to explain the project which will hopefully get more people involved. Grandparents of the volunteers, friends, and neighbors have expressed an interest in adding to the beautification of the cemetery.

Our Updates:

Redbank Valley Revives Smullin Cemetery

Jack S. 6 May 2018 21:08 We completed our project to the best of our ability. We used every dollar of our grant money to make positive changes to the cemetery.  These changes could not have happened without this grant. Thank you!

I am proud of what our team has accomplished and I look forward to seeing how the community steps up continue with this project. 

Comments:

Adrian B.
2 February 2018 14:40

Hi Jack!

Thanks so much for posting this project. I'm glad you and the group you're working with are so invested in maintaining positive community spaces where you live.

To apply for the grant, it can be helpful to do a bit more thinking about this issue first. Once you understand it more deeply, you can address the problem at its root. Why is it that the cemetery is run down (why does the town not have many resources for it)? What harm is it causing by having it be run down? Are there some groups who are affected worse than others? Are there additional public spaces that also could use cleanup, and why are those spaces currently in disarray?

Thinking more deeply about these questions will help you to identify the injustice that is present here. Discovering how this is an injustice (and not simply a problem that the town has, but is not a result of discrimination) will help you get to the root of the problem--and then the root of the solution.

Peace First has many tools and resources that can help at peacefirst.org/resources. Here are two that may be especially helpful for this phase of the project: https://www.peacefirst.org/resource/choose-3-positives-and-negatives
https://www.peacefirst.org/resource/choose-4-injustice-versus-inconvenience

This is deeply important work, and I'm glad that you're starting this project! Let us know how we can support you, and if you have any questions.

Best,
Adrian

RaulPF C.
2 March 2018 11:23

Hi Jack!

Thanks again so much for posting this project.

As part of the Peace First project-making process, we give formal feedback on your compassionate insight. Once your insight is all set, then you can move forward with your mini-grant application if you need funds to help move your idea into action!

I wanted to provide with feedback on your insight:
To solve this injustice of
forgotten veterans that do not have a well-kept place after death,
we will address
the maintenance of a small cemetery containing US veterans
by
fixing the gravestones and improving the landscape.

I also think it is great that you have identified something that can create positive spaces for your community.

As Adrian mentioned as well, I would invite you to spend a bit more time exploring what the injustice is and if the maintenance of the cemetery is the root cause of that injustice. Usually, when you identify what the root cause is, you would be able to understand the reasoning behind why those veterans are being forgotten. The maintenance of the cemetery comes across more as a consequence.

Do you have a way to talk to some veterans or families of veterans to understand why they may be forgotten after they pass away to try and come up with ideas for them not to be forgotten?

I look forward to hearing more about what you find.

Raul

Adrian B.
6 April 2018 14:07

Hi Jack,

Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths: I love how your project plan shows depth and thoughtfulness around how to approach this injustice. You are clearly taking lots of time and care to plan out what maintaining/cleaning up the cemetery means, in concrete steps. I like how you're talking about veterans in the context of them being forgotten, which is a deep problem in this country, and contributes to many more injustices they face. I also am excited that you're going to take the time to learn more about who is buried there. I encourage you to think about how you can use that knowledge to further honor those buried in the cemetery.

Things to Consider: Raul and I have both given you suggestions for how to strengthen this work, and I'd love to see you engage with those ideas. What is the root cause of why veterans are forgotten? How is the cemetery being in disarray the root of a larger problem that veterans face? And I encourage you to use the Talking to Others tool to understand more perspectives from veterans who are alive about what their experiences are like: https://www.peacefirst.org/resource/understand-1-talking-others The discoveries you make as you take on these suggestions will make your project even more powerful.

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!

Best,
Adrian

Adrian B.
15 June 2018 20:26

Hi Jack,

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

Strengths:

I love how deeply you've engaged your community around the maintenance of the Smullin Cemetery! It seems like you've planted some important seeds in your town around interest in beautifying the cemetery. I'm also impressed at the level of research you've engaged in by learning about those who are buried at the cemetery. It's so cool how you've brought together many people to increase care in your community!

Things to consider:

I encourage you to connect the important maintenance and beautification work you're doing within a larger picture of veterans' experiences in the US. Have you talked to living veterans in your community about their lives? They might have a lot to say that will help you increase the impact of your work. I also encourage you to use your incredible research skills to learn more about the challenges veterans face. Here's a link to get you started: http://nchv.org/index.php/news/media/background_and_statistics/

I also noticed that your reflection isn't completely filled out yet--could you add your answers to the last few questions? Thanks!

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!

Best,
Adrian