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You can volunteer to help the State of Illinois, as long as you pay a fee

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants help fixing a local cemetery, but before anyone can volunteer, they need to take a Cemetery Preservation Training Workshop that costs $30 per person or $45 per couple.

Paying to help is a concern many raised after News 8 aired the story about Freeland’s Cemetery on Monday, May 19, 2014.

Twenty-seven people are buried in Freeland’s Cemetery near Hampton, Illinois on land owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“As far as the cemetery, we would love to have some help,” said Chris Young with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Those interested in restoring a cemetery need to apply for a permit, which costs nothing. In order to obtain a permit, a person needs to prove they have taken basic cemetery preservation training. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offer that training class at the cost of $30.

Many people have emailed or written on our Facebook page about their desire to help fix the cemetery.

Some wonder why they would need to pay to help when the State is asking for it.

Lisa VanHierden wrote on our Facebook page: “I’d love to take my kids to do it, however you have to meet certain requirements and take a workshop that is 30 dollars per person, limited to 12 people. No wonder it’s not getting done. If people want to help, let them without charging them and/or limiting your own resources!”

“While I understand that there’s probably a need for training and education in order to do this, I don’t know about charging them $30 dollars because that’s just going to make it harder for people to come and help if they want to,” said Sarah Carpenter.

“It’s not right to have people pay for a class to learn how to take care of it when they should be taking care of it,” said Susan Lister.

“It’s absolutely crazy, if somebody gonna volunteer and they gonna ask to pay for it,” said Don Lunein.

In an email, Dawn Cobb with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency said, “There is a nominal fee to cover the cost of supplies. As representatives of the state, we “donate” our time but expendable supplies must be covered. If people check online for similar classes, they will find our fee is much lower than others teaching the same information.”

Cobb also said the classes are necessary so that cemeteries are fixed the correct way.

“We show people bad repairs and explain why they are incorrect, why they will eventually fail (stone will break again) and how the bad repairs are detrimental to the marker. People take the class to help themselves by taking care of a loved one’s marker, honoring the veterans or early pioneers, or fixing vandalism damage. The class is not for the benefit of the State — it’s for the benefit of our abandoned cemeteries through the state,” Cobb said.

Cobb says they are in touch with someone who will organize a restoration and will provide a date when help may be needed.