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Volunteers keep rural cemeteries looking nice

Cemetery clean-up day took place at St Matthews Lutheran Cemetery and Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery earlier this month.  Volunteers came out to chop down cedar trees, build and repair fence, and fix any other small issues st matthews fencethat might need attention.

For many smaller cemeteries, the job of clean up falls on community members. Since the rural Lutheran churches of St. Matthews and Immanuel no longer have buildings or a church in existence, the job of maintaining the graves of the faithful has become more a labor of love.

Other than occasional mowing that is hired out, the cemeteries rely heavily on volunteers once a year to do the heavy maintenance work. One of organizers of the yearly clean-up for both St. Matthews and Immanuel is Alan Schievebein and his wife, Sherry.

Schievelbein become involved with St Matthews because many of Sherry’s relatives are buried in St. Matthews and they became involved in Immanuel because many of his relatives are buried there.

Schievelbein said “you’ve got to volunteer, you need to take the responsibility because many of the family members (of the deceased) …they’ve all left.”

St. Matthews Cemetery has been blessed with funding from the sale of the building and has been paying for the regular maintenance with the interest accrued from the original money. The cemetery board hasn’t fallen back on the savings yet to pay for mowing, but Schievelbein said “mowing costs a heck of a lot more than it used to.”

So far, many of the memorials and donations that have been collected have paid for the fence maintenance. But there might come a day soon when the expenses finally dip into the savings.  It’s hard to tell the future. The Schievebeins will continue to care for the cemeteries because “it’s the right thing to do,” they said.

The cemetery board will send out donation letters to families with loved ones buried in the cemeteries.  The cemeteries still have plots for sale and room to expand in the future.  St. Matthews has 70 total plots with each plot containing 16 spaces for burials. Several of the plots are still vacant. Immanuel has nearly the same layout and space.  Both cemeteries could see more sales of plots well into the future.

For the rest of this, and other stories, please subscribe to the Arapahoe Public Mirror.

Arapahoe library receives grant for microfilm project

Ten Nebraska public libraries recently received a helping hand, thanks to the generosity of a lifelong educator, the late Shirley Kreutz Bennett of Lincoln.  Each year the Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund, an affiliated fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF), accepts proposals for matching grants for public libraries in communities with populations of fewer than 3,000.

Following Ms. Kreutz Bennett’s wishes, a Fund Advisory Committee composed of her nieces and nephews recommends grants in three areas: planning grants leading to accreditation; enhancement grants to improve library services; and facilities grants for new construction or the renovation, restoration or rehabilitation of current libraries.

All grants require a certain level of matching funds and evidence that the project has broad community support.  Approximately $80,000 is available each year. Grant seekers are encouraged to review the guidelines and application procedures at

For more information, contact Reggi Carlson, NCF Communications Director, (402) 323-7331or

Among the library receiving a grant was the Arapahoe Public Library.  The Fund Advisory Committee approved a grant of $5,120 for a project that involves digitization of more than 80 reels of microfilm from seven area newspapers dating back to 1879.

  There are more than 200 libraries in Nebraska communities with populations under 3,000, which makes them eligible for a grant from the Kreutz Bennett Donor-Advised Fund.  Of those, about 100 are not accredited by the Nebraska Library Commission.

“Gaining accreditation is critical to our libraries.  It opens the door to other outside funding,” said Jeff Yost, NCF President and CEO.  “In many small towns, the library may be the only place where some people have access to the Internet.  Shirley’s legacy gift shows that she had great vision and commitment to people in our small communities. We are honored to help the family of Shirley Kreutz Bennett develop a strategy to share her passion for learning, especially in places where funding continues to shrink,” said Yost.

Nebraska Community Foundation is a statewide organization using charitable giving to turn up the dream switch in communities across the state. NCF works with volunteer leaders serving more than 250 communities by providing training, strategic development, gift planning assistance and financial management for its affiliated funds located throughout the state. In the last five years more than 35,000 contributions have been made to NCF affiliated funds, and more than $126 million has been reinvested to benefit Nebraska communities.

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