ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE MARTINEZ NEWS-GAZETTE ON MAy 1, 2019, written by Donna Beth Weilenman and republished here with permission of both parties above.
MARTINEZ, Calif. – A new nonprofit organization has been formed to provide support to the preservation of Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery, which is considered the oldest formal burial site in Contra Costa County, Joseph Palmer has announced.
Palmer is president of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) which he said would be seeking donations of both money and materials to help with the historic cemetery’s presentation, as well as recruit volunteers and guidance experts. The alliance also expects to provide coordination with anyone interested in the cemetery’s care, including public officials, Palmer said. The organization will give a presentation to Martinez City Council at 7 p.m. today in Martinez City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.
While MCPA may be new, those involved have a longtime connection to the cemetery, Palmer said in his announcement. “The MCPA’s origins arose from the Potter’s Field Restoration Project (PFRP) efforts to restore the historic Chinese Funerary Burner and overall beautification of Potter’s Field,” he said. That project began May 9, 2015, curing the city’s annual cemetery spring cleanup. Volunteers had cleared broken bottles, trash, fallen branches and weed, and began deconstruction of the burner, he said.
In the ensuing four years, proponents of the project have learned that restoration of the burner and maintenance of the cemetery as a whole needs plenty of funding and involves significant logistical needs, Palmer said. That prompted the formation of the alliance, which has inherited the tasks related to the Potter’s Field restoration as well as the mission of coordinating with the city of Martinez’s staff and the Martinez Cemetery Commission, Palmer said.
By Feb. 11, the alliance was formed. By April, it had filed its legal paperwork and became recognized officially by the Internal Revenue Service as “a legitimate 501(c)(3),” or nonprofit organization, Palmer said. The alliance also is included on California’s Registry of Charities, he said.
Its duties will be to raise money to underwrite preservation and maintenance of the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery through memberships and donations of money and materials. The organization also intends to support the coordinated effort by Martinez and the East Bay Regional Park District in creating an Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery Preservation Master Plan; to create a partnership with individuals and organizations who have an interest in the pioneer cemetery; and to advocate for the cemetery preservation master plan. The alliance also expects to be “ambassadors for community engagement,” not only in preserving the cemetery but also in the areas of genealogical resource and raising awareness of those who are buried in the Alhambra cemetery.
Palmer said the alliance’s first volunteer outing will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the city’s annual Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery Spring Cleanup Day. Participants will clean away debris and remove weeds from the graves. Lunch will be provided by the E. Clampus Vitus organization. Volunteers will need to register and sign a liability waiver before entering the main or Potter’s Field gates. “You will become a dirt magnet,” Palmer said, and urged participants to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, protective eye wear and sturdy shoes. While fuel or battery-powered equipment won’t be allowed, other garden tool use will be permitted. Those who want to help with the rebuilding of the Chinese Funerary Burner will be able to remove sandbags and clear, clean and sort bricks.
The MCPA will provide morning refreshments, water, first aid, insect repellent and suntan lotion. Volunteers may call 925-316-6069, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the volunteer page, https://www.martinezcemetery.org/volunteer.html.
Those interested in supporting the alliance may visit its website, https://www.martinezcemetery.org/, and the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/martinezcemetery.
Judie & Joseph Palmer are two of the founding members of the Martinez Cemetery Preservation Alliance (MCPA) and the Potter’s Field Project. Both have a passion for discovery, history, genealogy, anthropology and archaeology.