Volunteers help clean up Wimauma historic cemetery after Hurricane Ian

Volunteers were at Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Wimauma on Monday, chopping up trees that fell on top of gravestones and other storm debris caused by Hurricane Ian

The cemetery is privately owned – meaning upkeep and repairs are the responsibility of the families. Brenda Eaton has loved ones buried here dating back to the late 1800s. 

"Seeing the damage right after the storm was overwhelming," Eaton said. "There were about 20 trees down, gravestones were damaged, we didn't know what to do."  

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Her and her husband Claude manage the property and have come out here almost daily for as long as they can remember, working to maintain it along with local pastor Donald Newberry. They said the cemetery has weathered many storms, but this was damage they'd never seen before, mostly caused from Cedar trees that are grown in someone's honor after a funeral. 

"They put them in years ago as small trees or a small bush, but they've turned into monumental trees that are splintering off in the high winds and storms," Pastor Newberry explained. "Should there be another storm we would have a repeat of this, so we're looking at removing all the cedar trees." 

While that's more of a long-term goal, in the last few weeks, community members and families of people buried at the cemetery have stepped up. A nearby company donated an entire forklift temporarily and small groups came with chainsaws.

"Everybody knew somebody that could help," Eaton smiled. 

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It's all about sprucing up and preserving an important piece of history. 

"It's family out here, I guess it's where I'll be one day, so it just means a lot, its history," Eaton said.

The cemetery is still looking for a tree service interested in lumber to come out once the hazardous trees are removed. They're also calling on people with yard tools to come out and help. 

To help clean up, you can call Brenda Eaton at 813-928-0900.