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Student Volunteers Make a Difference

Gary Rees on May 16, 2024

Around Lamoni

(Pictured:  Back row (L-R): Ambrose Savage, Landon Lindgren, Tate McDole, Taylor Henson, Meredith Howell, Kaitlyn O’Neal; Front: Lilly O’Neal, Karlee Hamaker, and Hosah Neiubauer in front of the tree trunk monument for Albert Dancer, the first Rose Hill Cemetery burial.)

Over 300 unmarked graves, many of which are infants, rest silently at Rose Hill Cemetery. Thanks to the dedication of volunteers from the Mayor’s Youth Council (MYC), 51 of these graves were recently identified, along with seven unrecorded burials and the resolution of 21 other discrepancies. Nine MYC high school students carefully compared the cemetery's database with the physical gravestones in its oldest section.

In this concerted effort and working in pairs for over an hour and a half, they checked 1,870 record entries across 5 sections of the cemetery. Jim Jones, the volunteer cemetery sexton responsible for managing cemetery records, expressed his gratitude, noting that the students' efforts significantly improved Rose Hills’ records. “Working by myself on this task has been slow and tedious but what these students did in a short time was enormously helpful,” Jones said.

Several years ago, Jones had begun tagging unmarked graves in the cemetery records, streamlining the process of locating headstones. The LamoniRoseHill.org website hosts a Search page offering access to information on all 4,281 individuals buried at Rose Hill including those in unmarked graves.

Ambrose Savage, who has served on the Mayor’s Youth Council for three years and chaired it for two, emphasized the rewarding nature of their work. Members of the council, spanning grades nine through 12, are appointed by the mayor with the guidance of an advisory committee. Savage described the council as a source of enjoyment, highlighting the joy derived from making a positive impact in the community. “Being a student led group, we have a lot of fun and having fun while performing the acts we are able to do is an amazing thing,” Savage said.
The city's Code of Ordinances states the purpose of the MYC is "...to provide an opportunity for the youth of the City to acquire a greater knowledge of and appreciation for their City government and their community leadership through active participation and involvement.  Further, the Mayor’s Youth Council is established to help the Mayor and City Council accomplish the goals of the community by working directly with the representatives of the youth."

"In 2022 the Mayor’s Youth Council became aware of Make a Difference Day held that fall and said we want to be part of it," said Marcy Biesemeyer, one of Lamoni Make a Difference Day leaders and longtime member of the Rose Hill Board. "I was lucky to be the contact for their group to match them with a project."  She went on to say that she is one of the group’s biggest fans, that the students do a great job, are kind, fun to be around, and have genuine desire to volunteer in Lamoni.  

Reflecting on their experiences, the students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to their community. Their involvement in various initiatives has not only deepened their appreciation for Lamoni but also fostered a greater respect for those who work tirelessly to better the community every day.

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