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Neglected cemetery in Mid City gets cleaned up

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BATON ROUGE - A major clean-up project is underway at a cemetery that's been neglected for years.

Sweet Olive Cemetery in Baton Rouge has no source of funding to maintain its gravesites, but residents are happy to see that someone has been cleaning up the place.

Martha Benton and her family have been living behind Sweet Olive in Mid City for more than a decade.

"It looks much better now than it did two weeks ago," Benton told WBRZ.

She says over the past few weeks, a busload of people have been coming by the cemetery.

"I see them cleaning up, cutting and pulling out stuff," Benton said.

But she has no idea who the people are. Her bother, Lionel Benton, has a friend buried in Sweet Olive.

"They buried him over here, and I was part of the funeral," Lionel said. "They deserve to have it cleaned, like all the other cemeteries all around Baton Rouge."

Piles of trash sit at the gate, just waiting to be removed. 

Sweet Olive is one of the oldest African American cemeteries in the state, where former slaves are buried. But even though a lot of progress has been made, nearby residents are concerned that once the cemetery is all cleaned up, it won't stay that way for long.

"It'll be okay for a while, then they wait a long time before they come back and it'll be grown up over your head," Benton said.

Over the years, several groups have volunteered at the cemetery, but the clean-up efforts have only been a temporary fix.

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