Volunteer crews gather to clear piles of trash from Cranston cemetery

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A local cemetery that was once blanketed in piles of garbage and debris has been cleaned up.

Over the weekend, a team of volunteers converged on the Oakland Cemetery in Cranston armed with rakes and leaf blowers.

Members of the group, who worked for hours to restore the final resting place of hundreds of people, said they were inspired to help by one of our past Call 12 For Action stories.

We introduced you to John Santosuosso back in March. His daughter’s mother – Pasha Love – is buried in the cemetery. For two-and-a-half years, he said he tried to keep her plot clean but all around her grave, piles of trash grew.

“She deserves better than to be laid in a trash bin,” he said.

Call 12 For Action viewers agreed and so far, the organization Peace and Providence has been leading the cleanup effort.

“My heart just broke for the people and the families involved,” said Justin Perreault of Peace and Providence. “We’re committed for the long haul, meaning that we’re going to continue throughout the year to get cleanup days together – try to maintain on a regular basis.”

On Friday, a landscaping crew was called in to clear branches and leaves while workers filled a dumpster with trash. On Saturday, a team of volunteers, church groups, boy scouts and the cemetery’s next door neighbor flooded the grounds to get rid of the rest of the mess.

“It’s a well-loved graveyard, it’s just been poorly maintained and I think people are at a point now where they’ve just had enough and they want to do something about it,” said volunteer Christine DeMarco.

Over the years, Cranston inspectors have issued a stack of violations against the cemetery and its owner, Russell Dodd.

Back in 2014, Dodd said he didn’t have the money to maintain the cemetery.

Volunteers said Dodd gave them permission to clean the cemetery up, but he still hasn’t returned any of Call 12 For Action’s phone calls. 

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