Community activist teams up with Blight Patrol to clean historic Midtown cemetery

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It's a sad sight. A historic Midtown cemetery has been overtaken by trash. Now, Memphians are coming together to clean it up.

Tucked between a Home Depot and Cash Saver grocery store, and hidden behind four cement walls, many people don't even know the historic Bettis Family Cemetery exists.

They were one of the first families to settle in what would later become Memphis in the early 1800s, and this is where their farm once stood. But now, among their tombstones, you'll find piles and piles of garbage.

"They settled this community. They were the foundation for Memphis. Why can't we respect them and the place where they're buried," neighbor Juanita Webb said.

Webb has lived across the street for most of her life and has seen the cemetery slowly deteriorate and turn into a trash heap and refuge for the homeless.

"I've called the police several times just this past year of people living over there in the cemetery. Then they run them away, and then they come back and it's just been a constant hassle."

But one group hopes to change that.

"This is somebody's final resting place, and for it to be trashed is totally unacceptable. We're gonna clean it up," community activist Patricia Rogers said.

Rogers works with the Lifeline to Success "Blight Patrol" team. She says, now that they know about the mess, their crews will get to work Monday to clean it up.

"Rain, sleet or snow, the Blight Patrol will go," Rogers said.

Home Depot bought the property in 2002 and promised to clean it up and maintain it. But clearly, that hasn't happened.

Some fear the trash will just come right back. But Rogers says the Blight Patrol will do everything in their power to make sure that doesn't happen.

"They are community-driven, they're community-focused, and it's just so amazing what they're doing here in the city. I'm just glad to team up with them to get stuff like this taken care of," she said.

A spokesperson for Home Depot told WREG, "The Home Depot has been committed to maintaining this property for many years. We're taking steps to correct this oversight and are scheduling a clean-up day this week."

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