• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

In storm’s wake, Community helps church clean up Steele Cemetery

Members of First Baptist Church in Versailles say they could not have cleaned up Steele Cemetery without the help of their community. People stepped up with their chainsaws and other equipment to help clean up damage left behind by the July 20 storm that blew through Versailles with hurricane-force winds, according to associate minister Donald Morton.

“We all pulled together to get it cleaned up,” said Morton.

“The Lord heard our cry. He heard all of us cry,” he added. “That’s why the people reached out and helped us.”

Strong winds knocked down headstones and trees – one so large, a bucket truck was needed to remove what remained. Morton credited Mayor Brian Traugott for directing him to someone who could handle that job at no cost to the church.

“It was unsafe for us – people on the ground – to do anything because if the wind shifted in any way that tree, it could’ve slipped down,” said Morton, who serves as caretaker of Steele Cemetery on Thomas Lane at Tyrone Pike.

“…We couldn’t have done this by ourselves.”

Traugott said he had just talked to Morton about how the church’s members didn’t have the equipment or volunteer manpower to do the cleanup themselves when Joey Cheek walked into City Hall asking what he could do to help.

“He runs a tree company, so I knew he had the machinery,” said Traugott. He said Cheek had previously helped low-income families remove fallen trees from their yards with “zero fanfare.”

Traugott said city and county workers got well-deserved credit for their efforts in cleaning up the storm’s aftermath, but “people-helping-people that goes under the radar, that is most inspiring.”

Rick Bourne, facilities manager at LedVance Sylvania, also volunteered to help with the cleanup of the plant’s neighbor, Steele Cemetery, Morton said.

Thankfully, Morton said none of the headstones in Steele Cemetery were broken by the strong winds. He said those families are being contacted so they can return each one to its rightful place.

“We try to take care of the cemetery because that’s sacred ground,” said Morton.

Now, a little more than a month after the storm that caused widespread damage across Versailles and Woodford County, Morton said the cemetery’s “cleaned up and looking good.” Hundreds are buried at the African-American cemetery, donated to First Baptist Church in 1950, according to Morton.

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