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Hands On Newton seeks volunteers

COVINGTON - A local organization is inviting the community to take a hands-on approach to celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Hands On Newton will sponsor a cleanup from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 21 at Graves Cemetery, also known as Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, located off U.S. Highway 278 across from Green Acres Farm.

The cemetery contains graves dating back to the 19th century, some belonging to slaves, and is still used by Graves African Methodist Episcopal Church, but has fallen into disrepair, according to Hands On Newton Director Doug Bolton.

Bolton said 150 volunteers are needed to help clear and beautify the 2-acre tract. The goal is to bring together people along different generational, racial and religious divides, Bolton said.

The effort will serve as an educational experience for local students as well, he added.

"We hope to have students from the high schools and Oxford College and Georgia Perimeter College who have read about things in history books, and we're going to try to pair them with people who actually have relatives buried there," he said. "Some of the (members of) African-American churches in the community there will be able to talk to them about what segregation was like, what the Civil Rights movement was about and what Martin Luther King Jr. was actually trying to attain."

Volunteers will need to bring their own equipment, such as weedeaters, hand shears, rakes, shovels and chainsaws. Volunteers are also needed to record information on headstones.

Anyone interested in volunteering should call 770-330-7405 or e-mail handsonnewton@yahoo.com.

Hands On Newton, an affiliate of Hands On Georgia, formed in late August as a countywide network that promotes volunteer approaches to meeting Newton County's critical needs through service and civic engagement.

The organization primarily acts as a clearinghouse linking volunteers with other organizations and sponsors two events each year: Volunteer Week, during the first week in October, and a Martin Luther King Celebration.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

· What: Cemetery cleanup sponsored by Hands on Newton

· When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jan. 21

· Where: Graves Cemetery off U.S. Highway 278 across from Green Acres Farm

· More information: Call 770-330-7405 or e-mail handsonnewton@yahoo.com