LIFE

New Jersey Inmates Revamp Abandoned Cemetery From The 1800s When No One Else Would

by Kristin Avery
Kristin shares a Chicago home with a dog, a rabbit, two cats, a husband, and an 11-year-old daughter.

Cemeteries are always somber places, but forgotten cemeteries are all the more so because the lives of those buried there are disappearing beneath debris.

About two years ago, Sgt. Bill Glaze of the Gloucester County Department of Corrections was driving down Oldman’s Creek Road in Swedesboro, New Jersey, when he noticed something strange. On closer examination, he realized it was a tombstone peeking up from beneath weeds and trash.

Sgt. Glaze did some research and discovered that grave was part of Ebeneezer Cemetery, which was open between 1830 and 1880. The grave he first noticed was one of about two dozen on-site.

Determined to restore and preserve this piece of local history, Sgt. Glaze organized a crew of inmates to clean up the site. They even discovered a few more graves in the process.

Nick Ballistreri, who is serving time for DUIs at Salem County Jail, says he never realized landscaping could be such a rewarding job. It’s hard work, but gives him time for self-reflection and an opportunity to give back to the community. His fellow inmates agree that transforming the lot is also helping transform their lives.

The project has the full support of the community, and many neighbors are stopping by the site to pay their respects and show their appreciation.

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