Cape May Kiwanis Club

Builders Club

Location: Richard M Teitelman Middle School

Builders Club is an international student-led program providing members with opportunities to perform service, build character and develop leadership. It is open to middle and junior high school students. Clubs are chartered in partnership with a Kiwanis club and a school or community-based organization serving middle or junior high school students.

 

Lower Township Joins Students To Restore Union Bethel Cemetery
By KAREN KNIGHT, CAPE MAY COUNTY HERALD

ERMA – Hoping to teach his students “to give back to their community,” a middle school teacher has been leading the charge to clean up the final resting place of Cape May’s and Lower Township’s first African-American families and black Civil War soldiers.

Paul Schulte, who teaches an engineering program at R. M. Teitelman Middle School, advised the school’s Builders Club, which has been clearing the Bethel Union Civil War Veterans Cemetery, on Tabernacle Road.

They have joined forces with the Cape May Kiwanis Club, which sponsors the school club, and the Lower Township Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) in the service project.

“Our goal is to get it cleaned up so it can easily be maintained,” Schulte said. “The community response to helping us has been amazing.”

About half of the Builders Club’s 30 members are the “core” workers, according to Schulte, who is the son of two history teachers. “History is near and dear to my heart,” he said, “so my students understand why I am so passionate about this project. I’m also hoping to teach them about giving back to their community.”
When Schulte decided to clean the cemetery, he was contacted by the mayor of Lower Township about working with the HPC on the project.

At the first workday Feb. 17, 14 students and eight adults spent the Presidents Day holiday clearing branches, leaves and other objects from the grounds.

At the second workday March 4, 17 of the 18 adults were from the HPC, and they brought along a chainsaw to cut trees and branches while the students raked and removed more leaves and branches. The third workday, March 25, about 50 students and adults were present.

Their goal was to have the cemetery in tip-top shape for a “grand re-opening” near Memorial Day, according to Schulte.

“The response from the kids and community has been amazing,” Schulte said as he watched the volunteers pick up logs, rake leaves and remove branches and vines from the grounds. “All these people are here because I asked.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” he admitted. “This is a real testament to the people of Lower Township and their understanding of the significance of this cemetery. I guess these folks wanted to make our little corner of the world a better place.”
Although the cemetery has been the service project of other groups over the years, it had fallen into disarray because no one maintained it.

Schulte is hoping this time is different and said the Builders Club has taken this service project on and will return in the fall to remove leaves.

He’s also been amazed at the community’s response to keep the grounds clear. “When we first started clearing the grounds, you could hardly tell it was a cemetery,” he said. “We still have some work to do, but it’s in great shape by comparison.”

“We’ve had a woman offer to give us day lilies to plant, because they require little maintenance,” noted Jacqueline Moon, a member of the Kiwanis Club who is involved with the project and volunteered her efforts the second workday.

  Bethel Cemetery - Cape May Kiwanis Builders Club

Rudy VonColln, a member of the HPC from Erma, said he plans to do what he can to maintain the grounds over the summer, including mowing and trimming plants and bushes. “The Kiwanis Club will contribute flags for all the veterans gravesites,” Kim Ford, Kiwanis Club president, said. She and her husband, Jim, were among the volunteers March 25.

“Paul (Schulte) has done a great job in pulling together everyone to help clear this land,” she added. “I used to walk my dog here and never knew it was a cemetery at first. The work that everyone has done to clear this land is amazing.”

The cemetery was once the site of the Union Bethel Church and the first black settlement in the area. It is the final resting place for some families, including the Turners, Vances, Humphries and Hastings.

Some headstones date to 1834; stone marks the gravesite of nine black sailors found on Delaware Bay beach in Lower Township after their ship went down in 1850. At least 70 veterans are buried there.

“It’s been phenomenal the work the kids have done,” said Pary Tell, a member of the HPC from Erma, who raked leaves March 25. “They’ve come out in all kinds of weather, given up their day off from school, to be here.”

“It’s nice to see they want to give back to the community,” added Judy Gillis, another HPC member who lives in Villas.

“Once we get this cleaned up and re-dedicated, we’ll be looking for additional clubs and groups to come in and donate their time to helping keep this land clear.”

 

Union Bethel Cemetery restoration ~  May 24, 2017 Dedication Ceremony

Kiwanis Builders Club - Union Bethel Cemetery Dedication Ceremony 1

Kiwanis Builders Club - Union Bethel Cemetery Dedication Ceremony 3
Kiwanis Builders Club - Union Bethel Cemetery Dedication Ceremony 2

Kiwanis Builders Club - Union Bethel Cemetery Dedication Ceremony 4

 

R. M Teitelman Middle School Builders ClubR. M Teitelman Middle School Builders Club, Lower Twp., NJ
Bethel Union Civil War Veterans Cemetery Project

Teacher Sponsor: Mr. Paul Schulte
Cape May Kiwanis Club

February 17, 2017: Today was R. M. Teitelman Middle School Builders Club’s first work day at Bethel Union Civil War Veterans Cemetery located in Erma, NJ in Lower Township.  Union Bethel Cemetery is the final resting place of Cape May and Lower Township's first African American families and Black Civil War soldiers. The renovation and clean-up project was the brainchild of Mr. Paul Schulte, Engineering Science teacher and the club’s sponsor. Even though today was a day off from school commemorating the Presidents’ Day weekend, 14 students and eight adults came to pitch in and get this project off to a great start. The goal is to have the project completed by this Memorial Day when we will celebrate the grand re-opening of the cemetery.

Bethel Union Civil War Veterans Cemetery Clean UpSeveral different private groups and organizations have made efforts in cleaning up the cemetery but unfortunately falls back into disarray without regular maintenance. To help prevent this from happening again, local landscape company has offered to regularly mow and trim. Mr. Schulte has also made arrangements with a company to engrave new grave markers at no cost  for the plots that no longer have them or have been broken and destroyed. The Builders Club will have fundraisers to procure the funds needed to purchase the markers.

The students who volunteered their time and ENERGY today were: Izzy Aftanis, Jordan Dougherty, Rob Elwell, Nikolas Frey, Ethan Frohman, Max Gilbert, Kyla Haibach, Alli Johnson, Chloe Lawler, David MacDonald, Molly McGuigan, Victoria Novsak, Kate Von Savage and Jackson Schiffbauer.  

In addition to Mr. Paul Schulte, the adults who actively participated were: Rob Elwell, Judy Gillis, Mark Haibach, Ed Johnston, Jacqueline Moon, Mark Schiffbauer and Bruce Tell. This equated to 40 hours of volunteer labor!  The next work day is scheduled for March 4, 2017 at 11 am.

Builders Club Clean Up      Kiwanis Builders Club Project

Cape May Kiwanis Builders Club      Builders Club, Erma NJ