Woodlawn Cemetery, like other areas in Columbia, is on the road to recovery thanks to recent landscaping done by volunteers from Mississippi Power’s Environmental Stewardship Council, Community Connection members and Keep Mississippi Beautiful.
Six months after a powerful tornado caused widespread devastation, the scars are still visible, especially at this 20-acre cemetery that was directly in the storms’ path.
“The community decided that restoring the cemetery was their primary focus,” said Senior Environmental Specialist Patrick Chubb. “We’ve worked on several projects in Columbia since the tornado, but this is the largest and the one that’s taken the most coordination.”
“After the tornado more people went to the cemetery to check on their loved ones before checking on their homes and businesses,” said Sarah Kountouris, executive director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful. “That’s when we knew we wanted to assist them in restoring the cemetery.”
Rene’ Dungan, chairman of Keep Columbia & Marion County Beautiful, said the landscape of the cemetery relied heavily on the live oaks that were present before the tornado.
“Before the storm, there were approximately 83 trees inside the cemetery. The arborist examined every tree and we were able to save about 40 live oaks,” Dungan said. “We could not have planted these large trees without Mississippi Power volunteers because of the equipment and manpower needed.”
Using a derrick truck with an auger and a mini-excavator, about 15 employees planted southern magnolias and crepe myrtles at the two entrances to the cemetery. They also prepared gardening areas for additional work in the cemetery.
Both Dungan and Kountouris could not thank the Mississippi Power volunteers enough for their time and hard work.
“We have partnered with Mississippi Power on beautification projects since before Hurricane Katrina,” Kountouris added. “I get emotional every time I arrive at an event and see Mississippi Power workers volunteering.”