WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — One of Winston-Salem’s oldest African American graveyards sits on 12.5 acres off Shorefair Drive.
Some graves at Odd Fellows Cemetery date back to the early 20th century. Over the years, the hallowed grounds fell into disrepair. Overgrown vegetation made it difficult for family members to visit sites where their loved ones are buried.
Volunteers formed a group they named Friends of Odd Fellows Cemetery. The nonprofit has worked to clean up the property for the past two decades. Groups rake, clip and remove debris on the third Saturday of each month.
“We want people to know about the people who were buried here,” Executive Secretary Linda Dark said. “We don’t want them to be forgotten.”
The Winston-Salem Foundation awarded The Friends of Odd Fellows Cemetery $50,000 to make additional upgrades. The improvements will make it easier for people to visit a loved one, take a tour or learn the history of the grounds.
“What we want to do is improve safety measures,” Dark said. “We have lights inside the building. We do not have any external lights. We’ve actually had to move our meeting times up in the winter time because it gets so dark out so early so the funding from The Winston-Salem Foundation will allow us to put in light poles outside. It will allow us to do some upgrading to our roadways.”
Maintenance at the cemetery is ongoing. Board member Deltra Bonner hopes young people get involved to keep history alive.
“We’re trying to get the next generation to understand the importance of this family tradition and hopefully they can keep it going.”
The Friends of Odd Fellows Cemetery will be restarting the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in January. To learn more about how to participate, schedule a tour or volunteer in a monthly workday, contact The Friends of Odd Fellows Cemetery at (336) 723-6452 or email email@example.com.