BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - People from all walks of life spent Martin Luther King Day cleaning up one of Baton Rouge’s oldest cemeteries that desperately needed some attention, Sweet Olive Cemetery at the corner of North Boulevard and 22nd Street.
Dozens of volunteers spent their day cutting up trees, weed eating and picking up limbs.
"These are our forefathers. These are the people we need to take care of, respect and honor," said Kevin Gomez with Ode to Our Warriors, a nonprofit organization for Baton Rouge Veterans.
Ode to Our Warriors and Capital Area Veterans helped spread the word about Monday's efforts that ended up reaching teachers like Kathy Smith. "I am with the Capitol Middle School BETA club and this is part of our community service hours," said Smith.
Smith had about nine students take part in Monday's clean up. Then there were others who simply saw the calling on Facebook like East Baton Rouge Councilman Dwight Hudson. Meanwhile, Aaden George, 10, said his dad drove by the cemetery when they decided this would be how their spend their off day, teaching his son a valuable lesson. "It's just really to help and have equality for blacks and whites," said George.
The nearly five acres of burial ground officially dates back to 1898, but some of those buried there date back even further. Over the course of a century, ownership of the cemetery changed hands and the conditions only got worse. "You pass the cemetery and you're like, 'Oh my God, why didn't someone clean this up?' How could you just leave them?" asked Smith.
The fence around the cemetery is coming apart. Inside, some graves are cracked and full of rain water. Others are completely covered by the grass. "That's unacceptable. That's not honor," said Gomez.
What is an honor is people of all ages and races coming together for one purpose.
"Honoring the people that were here, it puts into great perspective what caring and what being human is about," said Gomez.
In doing so, teachers are teaching their students about giving back to the community they live in and parents teaching their children life lessons on this national holiday.
"We should all think equal because we are all the same people because even though we are all different colors, we still bleed red at the same time," said George.
Organizers of the cleanup are looking for volunteers to help fix the broken fence and graves as well as get a sign for Sweet Olive Cemetery.