Cemetery Commission gets grant for restoration, preservation

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The Switzerland County Cemetery Commission has received a $40,000 grant from an anonymous donor designed to help restore and preserve three cemeteries here in the county.

Carolyn Miller of the Cemetery Commission said that funds will benefit three cemeteries: a private cemetery near Bennington; the Cotton Cemetery on Bennington Pike; and the Vevay Cemetery.

In order to fully access the full grant, however, the commission needs to collect $8,000 in matching funds – all of which must be new money coming into the commission.

“$40,000 for cemeteries is probably a little over a month of solid, 10-hour days working on cemeteries,” Carolyn Miller said. “$3,000 of it is supposed to go to a little, country cemetery on a family farm; $20,000 goes to Cotton Cemetery; and $25,000 will go to the Vevay Cemetery down in Section Two. That’s the historical part of the cemetery.”

The cemetery commission has a deadline of October 1st to raise the matching funds; but Carolyn Miller said that if the $8,000 can be raised quickly, the first $30,000 of the grant money will be released, meaning that work can begin during the late summer and fall months.

“The minute we get it raised we get the first $30,000 released to us, and we can begin the work,” Carolyn Miller said. “It’s seasonal work. We need to get working on it for this year. Our deadline is June 15th of next year, so all of the work needs to be done by then. Getting our matching funds as quickly as possible makes it much easier to meet that deadline.”

Carolyn Miller said that the work will involve finding old stones that are currently underground; along with repairing those that are broken or have fallen down over time.

“There are stones at the Vevay Cemetery that have been leaned up against something else; and in some places there may be three of four stones leaned up,” Carolyn Miller said. “It’s a matter of finding where they go and getting them put up; and also cleaning the stones. When you clean them that gets all that lichen off and preserves the stone.”

Carolyn Miller said that once the stones are preserved properly, every indication is that the stones will remain in good shape for the next 100 years, allowing future generations to learn about and learn from the stones and the cemeteries.

“We’re really excited about it,” she said. “If we can go ahead and get the rest of our money going. It will be paid into and is being granted to the cemetery commission.”

The Switzerland County Cemetery Commission is a five-member board appointed by the Switzerland County Commissioners. Along with Carolyn Miller, commission members include: Nancy Brown Barker, Shila Geyman, Lewis Fritter, and Robert Robbins.

The major condition of the matching funds is that the $8,000 must be new money. It can’t be funds already appropriated by the county to the commission either next year or future years. The funds can come from private donations from individuals; community or civic organizations; or new funding from other government sources.

“I’m appealing to the Vevay Town Council, because they weren’t going to give any money this year because of their other expenses,” Carolyn Miller said. “I’ve sent out letters to people who are interested in our cemeteries. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done because there are a lot of stones that are down.”

Those wishing to donate to the cemetery commission to help raise the matching funds may make their checks payable to the Switzerland County Cemetery Commission and send it to the commission at the Switzerland County Courthouse, c/o Switzerland County Auditor, 212 West Main Street, Vevay, Indiana, 47043.

“I call these cemeteries our outdoor museums, because they really are,” Carolyn Miller said. “It’s important that we preserve them for the future.”