A group of dedicated volunteers is taking on the challenge of restoring dozens of broken headstones at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Picton.
Picton Rotary Club members, St Mark’s senior minister Reverend Ben Boardman and residents have joined forces to repair the damaged graveyard.
The Pioneer Cemetery was inundated with flood water and debris in a storm in June last year and 56 headstones were snapped.
Pioneer Cemetery Restoration Committee secretary Lyn Davey said it was time to restore the cemetery.
“For the past 14 months the focus of the restoration work was on fixing the church, which was looked after by insurance,” Ms Davey said. “We left the cemetery sitting there until the rest of the town – the shops, residents and church – was back on its feet.”
The Rotary Club donated $10,000 to the committee last week to kick start the fundraising drive. The committee hopes to raise $70,000.
Club president Greg Cartwirght said Rotary wanted to make a donation to the committee because the cemetery was “obviously a great asset to the village”.
“The cemetery provides a great visitation point for tourists,” he said. “The devastation is obvious and Rotary is pleased to be able to contribute in this way.”
The committee will ask big business to financially support the restoration of the cemetery through sponsorship deals.
Small businesses or residents can also ‘adopt a grave’ to help the committee pay to restore smaller graves.
The committee will also apply for grants and is grateful for donations.
Ms Davey said a large proportion of the fundraised money would be spent on hiring a long-reach crane to lift the heavy headstones back into place.
Rev Boardman said the cemetery was “no man’s land” because the damage was not covered by insurance and therefore the money for the restoration project needed to be fundraised.
The graves are owned by the families of the deceased and therefore the cost to repair the graves falls on the family.
Ms Davey said six families had come forward to restore graves at their own expense.
Now that no other descendants have claimed a grave, the committee has taken on the responsibility of rebuilding the graveyard.
Committee members also sought advice from Wollondilly Council’s heritage consultant, who advised them on the heritage restrictions.