Monsanto Team Honors History, Supports St. Louis Community at Greenwood Cemetery

W. Sparks-Vredenburgh 10/7/2011


On Sept. 15, more than 200 employees from Monsanto’s chemistry division volunteered to clean up the Greenwood Cemetery in Hillsdale, Mo. This group volunteered at the cemetery as part of their contribution to the United Way Campaign of Greater St. Louis.

“We came out to clean up the cemetery as a team-building activity and to do some good at the same time,” Tom Adams, Monsanto chemistry lead, said.

The Cemetery’s Rich History

Greenwood Cemetery is a historical site in St. Louis. It serves as the final resting place of more than 50,000 people. Greenwood was founded in 1874 and is the oldest nonsectarian cemetery for African Americans in the St. Louis metro area. The cemetery has a rich history with veterans from the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and Korean War buried on the property.

From 1874 to 1993, Greenwood operated as a working cemetery. In 1993, burials ceased – along with income. As a result, funding to maintain the grounds ended, followed soon with vandalism and overgrowth. 

 “It’s a remarkably overgrown place, but it’s a place with a lot of history,” Derek Rapp, Monsanto chemistry development strategy lead, said. “A few hundred people came together for a chemistry summit. We were also given a chance to give back to the community and preserve a piece of history in the region. For us to have a chance to give to the community, we are a lucky group.”

Lots of Progress

Volunteers are needed to help with restoration efforts from landscaping to documenting burial sites.  

Etta Daniels, an archivist and historian for Greenwood Cemetery, was amazed by the work that was completed on Sept. 15.

“Due to the hard work and kindness of these volunteers, we were able to uncover three new grave sites that previously could not be located. Now, I will be able to contact three families and show them their ancestors’ grave sites.” 

“You can see the progress that was made throughout the day,” Michelle Insco, Monsanto chemistry operations lead said. “When we started, there were weeds taller than my head, and now the ground is cleared and grave sites are visible. Volunteers like to see the impact of their work, and we can see it all around us.”

Insco went on to say the employees will log their service hours through Monsantogether, Monsanto’s volunteer program. The program allows employees to do the service work they typically do in their own time, but rewards them for their contributions to the community by giving grants to the organization where the employees spent their time. As a result of this volunteer effort, Greenwood cemetery will receive additional funding from Monsanto.

In the near future, Greenwood Cemetery hopes to operate as a memorial park with hiking trails, picnic areas and restored historic tombstones. Greenwood continues to rely on the generosity of the community.

 “Without volunteers, Greenwood is nothing,” Daniels said. “The help means so much to us.”

To learn more about the Greenwood Cemetery legacy, check out the Monsanto Beyond the Rows blog.